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March 1, 2024

Education remains in the spotlight as the budgets begin to materialize in House Finance subcommittees

The Legislature continued to focus on education funding this week. On Monday, the Senate passed the omnibus education bill sent from the House late last week. The bill was then transmitted to the Governor, who indicated he plans to hold it until March 15 before deciding whether to veto it. 

Meanwhile, legislators conducted business as usual in the Capitol. Both bodies convened in a joint session on Monday for a legislative address from U.S. Congresswoman Mary Peltola. Separately, the House Finance Subcommittees finished their business with agency budget closeouts.  

Mary Peltola Legislative Address

Congresswoman Mary Peltola returned to Juneau this Monday for her second annual legislative address. She highlighted bipartisanship and noted how well Ӱԭ’s congressional delegation is working together. She pointed to the Monday decision by the Federal Trade Commission to file a lawsuit challenging the Kroger-Albertson grocery store merger as a result of bipartisan action with Senators Murkowski and Sullivan. Peltola also highlighted the creation of a bipartisan American Seafood Caucus. She noted that Ӱԭ’s congressional delegation is supporting an increase of federal research dollars for Ӱԭn fisheries, including research into declining salmon populations. This is a timely conversation as university research has been a big topic in the Capitol.

Budget

The University of Ӱԭ House Finance Subcommittee had two meetings this week. On Monday, the subcommittee members listened as Ӱԭ Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Anupma Prakash .  Transitioning from R2 to R1 research status allows the University of Ӱԭ to become even more of an impactful economic driver for the state of Ӱԭ. R1 research activities can potentially expand economic activity around the state.

Separately, the same subcommittee will meet this afternoon to take up amendments to the Governor’s proposed FY 25 University of Ӱԭ budget. Amendments passed by the committee will become finalized in the budget closeout. The entire Finance Committee will then review the University of Ӱԭ budget, and the committee will take public testimony on the overall state operating budget.

UA in the Capitol

The university system continues to have a robust presence in the Capitol. This week, the Coalition of Student Leaders (CSL) and the UA Faculty Alliance were both in town meeting with lawmakers and advocating for the university system. CSL is composed of current students from all three UA universities. Members of the coalition present in Juneau represented Kenai, Homer, Mat-Su, Anchorage, and Fairbanks. Members of the Faculty Alliance included faculty from Juneau, Anchorage, and Fairbanks.

Legislative Priorities

The Legislature did move two big pieces of UA’s priority legislation this week. On Monday, the House passed , expanding the Ӱԭ Performance Scholarship program. The bill was transferred to the Senate and is in the Senate Finance Committee (where it superseded its companion bill, ). HB 148 is now well-positioned for quick movement. However, it remains to be seen if HB 148 may be held in the Senate Rules Committee as part of an end-of-session negotiation package.  

Similarly, the House passed - a comprehensive tax credit bill. The bill, which initially provided for tax credits only for childcare programs, was expanded to include education tax credits (ETC), a priority of the university system. HB 89 now allows contributions to universities from third-party entities of up to $3 million to be claimed as a credit against their state taxes. The ETC program was also amended to extend the sunset date to 2028. HB 89 was transmitted to the Senate, and many are optimistic about passage.  

What We’re Watching

Monday, March 4

  • 8:30 a.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended” 
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended”

Tuesday, March 5

  • 10:15 a.m. - House Energy: Presentation: “Cook Inlet Region Low Carbon Power Generation with Carbon Capture, Transport, and Storage Feasibility Study by Frank Pasckvan, Institute of Northern Engineering, University of Ӱԭ Fairbanks”
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended”

Wednesday, March 6

  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended”
  • 1:30 p.m - Senate Labor & Commerce: Presentation: TVEP by University of Ӱԭ

Thursday, March 7

  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Finance: : “Hunt/Fish License for Nonresident Student”
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended”

Friday, March 8

  • 8:30 a.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended”
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating budget; Capital; Supplemental; Amended”

For more information, contact Director of State Relations for the University of Ӱԭ System Chad Hutchison, cell 907-378-3946, email clhutchison@alaska.edu. You can also follow the University of Ӱԭ Government Relations on our .

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