Capitol Report 2022

May 19, 2022 

In a flurry of activity, lawmakers pass the budget and a spate of legislation including a long-term solution for the Higher Education Investment Fund

After a failed budget concurrence vote last weekend, a selection of lawmakers crafted a revised state operating, capital and mental health budget. The revised budget was passed in the final hours of the 121-day legislative session. On the same day, legislators also pushed through several pieces of legislation that are important to the University of Ӱԭ.

Last Saturday, after three days of closed-door budget negotiations, lawmakers in the House narrowly voted against concurring with the Senate’s proposed budget. Instead, they opted to send the budget to a conference committee where three members from each body would take up the differences between the budget passed by the Senate and the one passed by the House back in April. Representing the Senate were finance co-chairs Senator Bert Stedman (R-Sitka) and Senator Click Bishop (R-Fairbanks), as well as Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage). The House was represented by finance co-chair Representative Kelly Merrick (R- Eagle River) as well as Representative Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan) and Representative Bart LeBon (R-Fairbanks). The conference committee met publicly on Monday and Tuesday, and finalized a consensus  version of the budget Tuesday afternoon. The operating and capital budgets moved from conference committee to the House and Senate for approval before midnight on Wednesday, the constitutionally-mandated last day of session.

The Senate passed the budget 19Y-1N early on Wednesday afternoon while the House deliberated late into the evening before passing the budget 33-7. 

The budget, as passed by the Legislature, had many important  provisions for the University of Ӱԭ system. After eight years of withstanding more than $100 million in cuts, compounded by enrollment challenges and the financial impacts of the COVID pandemic, this year’s UA's operating budget includes a 6.7% base increase over our current operating budget (a total of $291 million base operating budget) plus one-time investments in areas critical to Ӱԭ’s economic recovery. 

The operating budget brings a sense of fiscal stability for the University of Ӱԭ system and includes: 

  • $9.9 million for compensation and fixed cost increases (including a 2% salary increase for non-bargaining staff, firefighters, and local 6070) 
  • $3.5 million for health program faculty to meet workforce demand
  • $2 million for alternative energy
  • $1 million for health clinicals
  • $1 million for teacher education
  • $635,900 for continued Ӱԭ Library Network and Imagination Library support
  • $200,000 for Ӱԭ Area Health Education Centers
  • $100,000 increase to mental health trust funding 
  • $72,300 for technical vocational education program funds (+$881,800  FY22 supplemental)
  • And increased authorization to receive federal funding for research

The operating budget also includes one-time funding for research and development critical for Ӱԭ’s economic recovery:

  • $10 million for drone programs to secure beyond line of sight and industry development
  • $7.8 million for important critical mineral and rare earth research and development
  • $5 million for heavy oil recovery research and development
  • $250,000 for health program equipment 
  • $7 million to support mariculture research, industry support and workforce development

Additionally, the budget contains capital funding for the following:

  • $50 million for deferred maintenance
  • $20 million for student IT system modernization
  • $2.5 million for Alternative Energy Research
  • $2 million for fisheries, seafood, and maritime programs
  • $500,000 for rare earth elements demonstration facility
  • $250,000 for rare earth mineral security
  • And increased authorization to receive federal funding for the Seward Sikuliaq facility

The conference committee also added $1.6 million to expand the WWAMI Medical Education Program over two years and $395 million to recapitalize the Higher Education Investment Fund (HEIF) for student scholarships and grants, pending approval of legislation that made the fund unsweepable. (See below.) With that bill approved, the fund can now be recapitalized.

Bills on the Move

In addition to passing the budget, lawmakers also passed a flurry of bills in the final four days. Among them were several pieces of legislation relevant to the university system. 

, the House Transportation committee bill, initially introduced to protect the Ӱԭ Marine Highway System (AMHS) Fund and Vessel Replacement Fund from being swept into the Constitutional Budget Reserve, was recently amended to also include the Higher Education Investment Fund. Under the bill, all of the funds would be removed from the General Fund and placed under the state treasury where they would be exempt from the sweep. The legislation is timely after the Supreme Court affirmed a Superior Court ruling against the suit brought by four UA students who legally challenged the administration’s action to sweep the fund into the Constitutional Budget Reserve. By passing HB 322, the Legislature has settled the issue by making the HEIF unsweepable in future years. Protecting HEIF is what’s best for Ӱԭ. Assuring predictable financial support for university students will position the university system to meet Ӱԭ’s future opportunities. The bill passed 25Y-15N in the House and 14Y-4N in the Senate and will now be transmitted to the governor.

 On Tuesday, the Senate passed Representative Bryce Edgmon’s (I-Dillingham) , legislation creating a state office of broadband and a statewide broadband advisory board. Ӱԭ is set to receive billions of dollars in federal funding for broadband improvements as a result of funding contained in the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. However, in order to receive the funds, the State of Ӱԭ is required to have an official broadband office. The bill also establishes an advisory board, which includes a member from the University of Ӱԭ who will advise on broadband implementation statewide. The Senate version of the bill was slightly different than the House version, so in a Thursday concurrence vote, the legislation passed the House 34Y-6N. The bill will now be transmitted to the governor.

, sponsored by Representative Bart LeBon, allows the University of Ӱԭ to borrow or refinance at lower interest rates through the Ӱԭ Municipal Bond Bank Authority. The bill passed the Senate 16Y-1N and was concurred upon by the House 37Y-3N.

, a governor’s bill to remove barriers to microreactor development, including requirements for legislative land approval and agency regulations studies, passed both bodies. The bill allows the state to move more quickly on micro nuclear power projects. The Ӱԭ Center for Energy and Power is at the forefront of much of the research and development of these small modular nuclear power plants. The legislation passed the Senate 16Y-2N , and the House 29Y-7N. 

Senator Bill Wielechowski’s (D-Anchorage) , legislation intended to make the spending of state funds more transparent to the public, passed the House unanimously on Tuesday. The bill requires all state agencies and corporations to submit their annual expenses and revenues to the Department of Administration who then publishes the data on a public website, referred to as the “Online Checkbook”. The University of Ӱԭ is included in the bill and will be required to submit annual financial reports. The Senate concurred with the changes made in the House and the bill has been transmitted to the governor.

 


May 13, 2022

Last-Minute Budget Amendments on Senate Floor Create Instability in the Capitol as Lawmakers Attempt to Finalize the Budget

On Tuesday the Senate passed the state operating budget. Both Monday and Tuesday were spent considering almost 50 budget amendments. After long deliberation, the body adopted the amended budget. Notably, several large dollar items were added to the budget during floor deliberations, among them a full $4,200 statutory PFD payment and a $1,300 one-time energy relief payment.

The addition of the PFD and energy relief payment, totaling approximately $3.6 billion, as well as $416 million for various capital requests (including an additional $175 million for the Port of Ӱԭ, $175 million for the deep-water Port of Nome and $30 million for Mat-Su transportation infrastructure)  would bring unrestricted general fund spending to $9.4 billion. For comparison, the predicted FY23 revenue is just over $8.3 billion. Even assuming oil prices at $101/barrel, the Senate additions would cause the state to go from having a budget surplus of $1.2 billion to a budget deficit of approximately $1.1 billion.

Adjusting for inflation, the amended budget would be one of the largest budgets in state Ӱԭ. The budget passed the Senate floor 15 Y – 5 N, with many Senators anticipating that the House would reject the budget.

Procedurally, when the Senate passes the budget bill it goes back to the House where the representatives vote on whether to concur on the budget changes made by the Senate. The House has traditionally rejected the changes, at which time a “limited” conference committee of 3 representatives and 3 senators is selected. The conference committee then meets to decide the final budget outcomes. During limited conference committees, the members can only look at the House and the Senate versions of the budget and debate items introduced in one or both of the versions. No new items can be added. If the limited conference committee fails and members cannot reach a compromise, a “free” conference committee is established. A free conference gives lawmakers the ability to open up the conversation to any number of changes not initially proposed. 

However, this year has been anything but normal. 

Because many lawmakers campaigned on large PFDs, and support the port improvements in Anchorage and Nome, many members in the House want to concur with the Senate’s version of the budget. Historically, the last time the House concurred with the budget from the Senate was in 1982. A vote to concur with the Senate budget would mean that the budget would be passed “as is” and sent to the governor for approval. The governor may choose to approve the budget as is, or he can opt to veto certain elements in order to balance the budget – a move that would require roughly $1.1 billion worth of vetoes.

Since the Senate passed the budget on Tuesday, there have been deep discussions in the House about “support” and “opposition” to concurring on the budget. Speaker Louise Stutes has canceled all floor sessions since Wednesday while legislators attempt to drum up votes. As of writing, the House still has not voted on the budget. 

Notably, if the House passes the budget “as-is,” the University of Ӱԭ has the prospects of receiving (barring a veto):

  • A $13.9 million increase for fixed cost operating increases, $2 million for Alternative Energy Research, $1 million to support increasing teachers, $1 million to support the health care workforce, $635,900 for continued Ӱԭ Library Network and Imagination Library support. 

  • $881,800 in FY22 supplemental funding for the Ӱԭ Technical and Vocational Education Program (TVEP).

  • $50 million in one-time funding for facilities deferred maintenance, $20 million for student facing IT system upgrades, $2.5 million for emerging energy opportunities, $250,000 for mineral security projects, $500,000 for a rare earth elements demonstration facility, and $2 million for maritime works.

The budget would not be perfect, as it would lack the House’s initial proposals of $394 million to recapitalize the Higher Education Investment Fund (HEIF) which affects the Ӱԭ Performance Scholarships, Ӱԭ Education Grants, and WWAMI scholarships. Notably, the scholarships and grants would still be funded, but through state general funds for FY23 which is an unusual departure from the historic funding source for the scholarship and grant programs.  

In addition, the UA has advocated for $10 million for our drone program, $7.8 million for critical mineral and rare earth development research, $7 million for mariculture, $5 million for heavy oil recovery research, and $3.75 million for expanding health programming and faculty at UAA. Those specific items were not included in the Senate version of the budget (although it is true that some reduced funding was given for critical minerals and for our health programs).

Legislative Confirmations

Congratulations are in order for UA student regent Kali Spencer who was confirmed by the Legislature on May 4. Congratulations Kali! Your confirmation is well-earned.

ACUASI Takes Flight

The Ӱԭ Ӱԭ Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration (ACUASI) will be launching the first flight of one of its large drones next Sunday, May 22 at Fairbanks International Airport. Observers are welcome and encouraged! The first flight is scheduled for 8 a.m., weather and previous-day’s safety checks permitting. We recommend arriving at the ACUASI hangar at 3684 University Avenue South by 7:40 a.m.. The hangar is on the right side of the road past the Ӱԭ Community and Technical College hangar and before East Ramp Wood-Fired Pizza. It is a blue-gray building with conexes and trailers parked near it.

Saturday, May 14

  • 10:00 a.m. - House Floor:   “ Microreactors” 
Monday, May 16
  • 9:00 a.m - Senate Finance: : “Ӱԭ Marine Highway Funds, HIgher Education Investment Funds”

  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: : “State Government Finances: Online Website”

Please note that many bills have not been scheduled for next week due to ongoing budget negotiations. However, they may be noticed during the upcoming week.

May 6, 2022

The Senate Takes up an Omnibus Budget Bill as Lawmakers Near Session Deadline

With only 13 days left until the Legislature hits the 121-day regular session deadline, lawmakers are rushing to meet their constitutionally mandated duties, namely passing a state budget and voting on appointees to state boards, commissions and the Governor’s cabinet. Early this week, we saw the Senate make big moves on the operating budget, while on Wednesday both bodies met in a Joint Session to vote on appointments.

After several weeks of hearings in the Senate Finance Committee, the state operating budget (/) was transmitted to the Senate floor on Tuesday afternoon. Before passing the budget out of the committee, Senators amended the legislation to include the entire capital budget. Notably, the capital budget that was amended into the bill is the Senate’s version of the bill (). The new omnibus bill, as amended, does not include any House input on the capital budget.

The draft budget includes the following funding for the University of Ӱԭ:

  • $13.9 million for fixed cost operating increases, $2 million for Alternative Energy Research, $1 million to support teacher practicums/student teaching pilot program, $1 million to support health care clinical pilot programs, $635,900 for continued Ӱԭ Library Network and Imagination Library support. 

  • $881,800 in FY22 supplemental funding for the Ӱԭ Technical and Vocational Education Program (TVEP).

  • $50 million in one-time funding for facilities deferred maintenance, $20 million for student facing IT system upgrades, $2.5 million for emerging energy opportunities, $250,000 for mineral security projects, $500,000 for a rare earth elements demonstration facility, and $2 million for maritime works.

The Senate will consider the budget this upcoming Monday. After the Senate passes the budget, it will have to go back to the House for a concurrence vote. The House will either accept the changes made, or send the bill to a conference committee where the final elements will be sorted out.  With only 13 days left in the regular session the timeline for a conference committee is limited. If the legislature isn’t finished with a budget by May 18, lawmakers will need to vote to extend the session by another 10 days. The session extension requires a 2/3 vote in each body - a target many legislative insiders are skeptical can be reached.

While state funding is currently looking greatly improved for the university system, we are not finished with the process yet. Even after the legislature comes to an agreement on the budget, the final legislation will go to the Governor’s office where he has the ability to veto any funding. The legislature can only override vetoes with a 3/4 vote.

Bills on the Move

While all eyes have been on the budget this week, several other pieces of important legislation relating to the university have been on the move this week:

  • , Representative DzDz’s bill protecting the Higher Education Investment Fund (HEIF), has seemingly stalled out in the Senate Education Committee. In a quick effort to mitigate the situation, the House amended similar wording protecting the HEIF into , a bill relating to the Ӱԭ Marine Highway System Fund. The House passed HB 322 and it was transmitted to the Senate where the bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee, bypassing the Senate Education and Transportation committees. We are optimistic that the bill will come up quickly and the legislature will vote to protect the fund for future generations. The legislation is timely after the Supreme Court affirmed a Superior Court ruling against the suit brought by four UA students who legally challenged the administration’s action to sweep the fund into the Constitutional Budget Reserve. By passing HB 322, the legislature will settle the issue by making the HEIF unsweepable in future years.
     
  • , updating the university’s reporting requirements to the Legislature, had a hearing in House State Affairs. The bill, sponsored by Senator Stevens, would require the Board of Regents to report university accreditation status to the legislature. The bill was heard and held in committee and will be brought up again next week.
     
  • Senator Wielechowski’s , updating Ӱԭ’s online checkbook website, was also heard in House State Affairs this week. The bill requires state agencies to report their financial revenue and expenditures to the Department of Administration so that the information may be shared on a publicly-available website. The bill is intended to make state finances more transparent. However, because the university system uses a different financial accounting system than other state agencies, aligning our reports with other agencies is a burdensome process. The bill was amended in State Affairs to exempt the University of Ӱԭ from the reporting requirements. The bill passed out of committee and heads to House Finance next.  
     
  • , removing barriers to microreactor development, was passed out of the Senate on Wednesday. The bill is important to the university as the Ӱԭ Center for Energy and Power (ACEP) is heavily involved with microreactor development in the state. The bill is scheduled in the House Resources Committee this upcoming Monday.
     
  • , establishing a state broadband office and broadband advisory board, was passed out of the House and transmitted to the Senate where it has been referred to the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee. The University of Ӱԭ is one of the largest users of broadband in the state. As an “anchor institution” within the state, we are included in the bill with a seat on the advisory board.

Next Week’s Calendar

Monday, May 9

  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Floor: : Appropriations: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds” & : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”

  • 1:00 p.m. - Senate Finance: Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled

  • 1:00 p.m. - House Resources: : “Microreactors”

  • 1:30 p.m. - Senate Labor & Commerce: : “Broadband: Office, Grants, Parity”

Tuesday, May 10

  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Finance: Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled

  • 1:00 p.m. - Senate Finance: Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled

  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: : “State Government Finances: Website”

Wednesday, May 11

  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Finance: Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled

  • 1:00 p.m. - House Resources: : “Microreactors”

  • 1:00 p.m. - Senate Finance: Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled

  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled

Thursday, May 12

  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Finance: Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled

  • 9:00 a.m. - House Finance: Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled

  • 1:00 p.m. - Senate Finance: Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled

  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled

  • 3:00 p.m. - House State Affairs: : “U of A Regents Reporting Requirements”

Friday, May 13

  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Finance: Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled

  • 9:00 a.m. - House Finance: Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled

  • 1:00 p.m. - Senate Finance: Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled

  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled

Saturday, May 14

  • 10:00 a.m. - Senate Finance: Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled

  • 10:00 a.m. - House Finance: Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled

 

April 29, 2022 

Lawmakers Amend the Capital Budget and the Governor Visits Ӱԭ

It’s been a busy week in the Capitol. Today is the 102nd day of the session, and the Legislature is making a big push in order to wrap up in under 121 days. This week both bodies took up the capital budget and we’re appreciative of the strong support for the University of Ӱԭ. Special thanks to the co-chairs of the finance committees in charge of the capital budget (Senator Bishop and Representative Merrick).  

Check out the latest news, and more, in this week’s Capitol Report.

Legislative Update

In a whirlwind of late-week activity both the Senate and the House took up the FY23 capital budget (/). We were pleased to see that the Senate version funded all of the Board of Regent’s original requests.

On top of meeting the Board of Regents’ requests, the Senate Finance Committee added $3.25M in funding for additional projects. The Senate version funds the following projects with unrestricted general funds:

  • Facilities deferred maintenance / renewal & repurposing $50,000,000

  • Student IT Systems – Modernization and Security Upgrades $20,000,000

  • Emerging Energy Opportunities for Ӱԭ $2,500,000

  • Rare Elements Demonstration Facility $500,000

  • Mineral Security Projects: Rare Earth Mineral Security $250,000

The House adopted a  to HB 283 that includes the changes made by the Senate in SB 164. The bill was then set aside for further consideration. The Senate separately continued to take  on the operating budget (House Bills /) this Thursday. The newest committee substitute can be found . The Senate has held the bill and will consider it further in upcoming hearings.

The Senate Transportation Committee adopted a  to - the general obligation bonds bill that contains $391M in bonds for infrastructure projects. Included in the bond bill are several of the same facilities deferred maintenance projects covered by the capital budget funding. The committee accepted the substitute and passed it out of committee. It has a further referral to Senate Finance where it will likely meet with scrutiny since several of the projects included have also ended up in the capital budget.

UA on the Go

Last Friday, Governor Dunleavy and staff traveled to Fairbanks where they met with President Pitney and Ӱԭ faculty and staff  to discuss the university’s drones and agriculture programs. The Governor received an update on our Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Lab research and the Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station (AFES). 

Our AUV research strengthens Ӱԭ’s blue economy by utilizing underwater sensor systems to expand marine science knowledge. The AUV Lab partners with high tech companies to develop software and integrate remote sensors to conduct fisheries and oceanographic surveys, track range extensions of marine mammals, and track tagged fish, crabs and sharks, as well as study underwater acoustics and water nutrient chemistry. 

AFES, on the other hand, focuses on problem solving and knowledge building in agriculture, natural resources and forestry. Among AFES’s programs are the , the , and a Delta Junction field research site. Of interest to Governor Dunleavy is AFES’s focus on food security and the research being done to increase food production in-state. 

The Governor emphasized the need to support both programs, and he displayed a real interest in providing state support. 

More good news:  After meeting with the agriculture experts last week, the Governor announced the members of his new Ӱԭ Food Security and Independence Task Force on Monday. We’re excited that among the members is Dr. Mingchu Zhang, professor of agronomy/soil sciences at Ӱԭ. Dr. Zhang’s recent research includes field testing of feed and hulless barley, oat, Polish canola and early-maturing spring wheat varieties, and testing barley varieties for suitability for craft malting. A big congratulations to Dr. Zhang!

Over the weekend, UA State Relations Director Chad Hutchison traveled to the UAS Ketchikan Campus for a tour of the campus’s deferred maintenance needs and the UAS Maritime Training Center. A special thanks to Dr. Priscilla Schulte for helping to make this special opportunity happen.

The Paul Building is among those included in our capital budget deferred maintenance request. The building has a  style roof system that utilizes a cement bonded siding material. The siding has not been able to withstand frequent precipitation and puts the roof system in danger of failure.  Capital funding would allow the university to replace the failing material with a stronger metal material that is more resistant to rain. 

There was also an opportunity to tour the UAS Maritime Training Center (which may play a key role as we look to boost the maritime workforce in Ӱԭ).  The training center offers career training with its Maritime & Multiskilled Worker Program, welding and fabricating instruction, marine pilot navigation simulations, and continuing education courses for ports and harbor Ӱԭs. The many courses offered include diesel mechanics maintenance and repair, marine welding, navigation, shipboard safety, oil spill prevention and response, just to name a few. With all of Ӱԭ’s maritime industry (and a statewide emphasis on growth), we’re very fortunate to have such a training facility.

Federal Funding Opportunities

With the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill – the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) – several federal grant funding opportunities are coming down the pipeline, including grants for energy development, workforce development, and broadband infrastructure. To keep an eye on current funding opportunities, check out .

Commencement

Lastly, Spring 2022 commencements begin this week. Congratulations to the many University of Ӱԭ students who will graduate this semester! Planned commencement dates for each campus are as follows:

Friday, April 29

UAS - Sitka Campus

Saturday, April 30

Ӱԭ - Troth Yeddha' Campus
UAS - Ketchikan Campus

Sunday, May 1

UAS - Juneau Campus
UAA - Anchorage Campus

Wednesday, May 4

Prince William Sound College

Thursday, May 5

Ӱԭ - Chukchi Campus
Kenai Peninsula College

Friday, May 6

Ӱԭ - Bristol Bay Campus
Mat-Su College

Saturday, May 7

Kodiak College

Thursday, May 12

Ӱԭ - Northwest Campus

Next Week’s Calendar

Monday, May 1

  • 1:00 p.m. - Senate Finance: Bills previously heard/scheduled

Tuesday, May 3

  • 10:00 a.m. - House Fisheries: - Claudine Hauri, University of Ӱԭ Fairbanks, et al.

  • 1:00 p.m. - Senate Finance: Bills previously heard/scheduled

  • 3:00 p.m. - House State Affairs: : “State Government Finances: Website”

Wednesday, May 4

  • 1:00 p.m. - Senate Finance: Bills previously heard/scheduled

  • 1:30 p.m. - Senate Labor & Commerce: : “School Apprenticeships Programs; Tax Credits” 

Thursday, May 5

  • 1:00 p.m. - Senate Finance: Bills previously heard/scheduled

  • 3:00 p.m. - House State Affairs: : “University of Ӱԭ Regents Reporting Requirements”

Friday, May 6

  • 9:00 a.m. - House Finance:: “Appropriations: Capital; Reappropriations; Supplemental”

  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Finance: : “Broadband: Office, Grants, Parity”

  • 1:00 p.m. - Senate Finance: Bills previously heard/scheduled

  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance:: “Appropriations: Capital; Reappropriations; Supplemental”

Saturday, May 7

  • 10:00 a.m. - Senate Finance: Bills previously heard/scheduled

  • 10:00 a.m. - House Finance: Bills previously heard/scheduled

April 22, 2022 

As Budget Negotiations Advance, Lawmakers Looking to Conclude Session in 120 Days or Less

With spring just around the corner, lawmakers are eyeballing the week of May 20th as the potential last week of session. However, to adjourn, legislators are constitutionally obligated to pass a budget. This week we take a look at the remaining steps to do just that.

In the State Legislature both the House and the Senate must review and pass the budget. To speed up the process each body starts with its own budget bill. This year, the House operating budgets bills are House Bills / and, in the Senate, Senate Bills /. The bills pass through each bodies’ respective Finance Committee where members spend several weeks scrutinizing each state agency in the corresponding finance subcommittees. The subcommittees make recommendations to the Finance Committee of the Whole, which then amends their budget bill to reflect those recommendations. The Committee of the Whole considers the revised budget bill and eventually passes the bill out of committee. At that point, the bill travels to that body’s floor for a vote of the entire body. Any member of the body can introduce amendments during the floor process. 

Once a bill has been passed out of the floor, it is transmitted to the other body for holding while the other body completes its own operating budget review process. Once both bills have been passed out of their respective bodies a conference committee of 6 lawmakers is selected. Because the operating budgets passed out of the House and Senate rarely match, a conference committee with three members from each body, usually two majority and one minority member, is necessary to come to a final resolution on the budget. Notably, once a conference committee has been selected, the Legislature transitions into the “24-hour rule”. Unlike the rest of session, when bills hearings must be noticed the previous week, the 24-hour rule allows lawmakers to schedule hearings with as little as 24-hour notice. Once the 24-hour rule is in effect, legislation can move extremely quickly. 

As it currently stands, the House has passed an operating budget which has since been transmitted to the Senate. Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee is still in the process of considering budget amendments. This next week, we anticipate the committee to take up further amendments and likely hear the budget on the Senate Floor. The UA Government Relations team has had many positive conversations with Senate leadership and are optimistic. We are also cautiously optimistic that there will be a strong appetite for fulfilling many of our deferred maintenance needs.

Bills on the Move

Outside of the budget bills, several other pieces of important legislation still have legs and are moving through committees.

  • Senator 𲵾’s , which gives workers who were considered essential during COVID-19 free college tuition, is currently in its final committee of referral. This week the House Finance Committee will consider the bill, and if it passes, the legislation will be transmitted to the House Floor for a vote of the entire House.

  •  by Rep. Josephson, which protects the Higher Education Investment Fund, passed the House last week. It has been submitted to the Senate Education committee where we hope it receives quick attention.

  • Two bills introduced by Senator Stevens await final review by the House.  would codify the Ӱԭ Middle College programs, making college credit available for high school students.  would require the Board of Regents to report university accreditation status to the legislature. If passed by the House, both bills will go to the Governor for his signature before becoming law.

, introduced by the House Labor & Commerce Committee, expands Ӱԭn apprenticeship programs and establishes tax credits for participating employers. It also allows high school students to receive dual credit for career and technical education (CTE) programs and apprenticeships. The bill has been moved from the Senate Education Committee and awaits a hearing in Senate Labor & Commerce.

Next Week’s Calendar

Monday, April 25

  • 1:00 p.m. – Senate Finance: “Presentation: Constitutional Budget Reserve Sweep & Reverse Sweep”

Tuesday, April 26

  • 1:00 p.m. – Senate Finance: : “Appropriations: Capital; Reappropriations; Supplemental”

  • 1:30 p.m. – Senate Transportation: : G.O. Bonds for Infrastructure Projects”

  • 3:30 p.m. – Senate State Affairs: : “State Employees: State Residency” &  “Pay Increases for Exempt Employees”

Wednesday, April 27

  • 1:00 p.m. – Senate Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds” & : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”

  • 1:30 p.m. – House Finance: : “Appropriations: Capital; Reappropriations; Supplemental”

  • 1:30 p.m. – Senate Labor & Commerce: : “School Apprenticeships Programs; Tax Credits”

April 15, 2022 

The House Passes an Operating Budget and Key Legislation Protecting the Higher Education Investment Fund 

Over the weekend the House passed an operating budget. Following this monumental lift, several legislators and staff traveled to Anchorage to attend an Infrastructure Grants Symposium co-hosted by Senator Lisa Murkowski and local organizations. Back in Juneau, lawmakers in the House voted on key legislation relating to the Higher Education Investment Fund, and the Senate heard from the University of Ӱԭ as well as industry and state agency partners about workforce development initiatives.  

Budget Movement

On Saturday, the House passed the operating and mental health budgets ( and ). The operating budget includes $281.7 million in unrestricted general funds for the university system. This is a $9 million increase over the FY22 budget. Additionally, the budget includes funding for several university programs and research areas that were identified by the Board of Regents as priority investments that help all of Ӱԭ: $10 million in support for our drone program, $7.8 million for important critical mineral and rare earth development, $5 million for heavy oil recovery, $3.75 million for health programs, and $7 million to support mariculture research and development, it also includes $635,900 for continued Ӱԭ Library Network and Imagination Library support and $200,000 for Ӱԭ Health Education Centers. The House also added $395 million to recapitalize the Higher Education Investment Fund (HEIF) for student scholarships and grants, and $1.6 million to expand the WWAMI Medical Education Program over two years.

The Senate did not take up the Senate version of the operating budget () this week, however, they are expecting to consider amendments next week. The current Senate Committee Substitute includes $291.3 million in unrestricted general funds with $13.5 million for fixed and operating costs increases, $2 million for Alternative Energy Research, $1 million to support teacher practicums/student teaching pilot program, $1 million to support health care clinical pilot programs, $635,900 for continued Ӱԭ Library Network and Imagination Library support and $357,600 for the Local 6070 1-year contract extension, as well as $881,800 in FY22 supplemental funding for the Ӱԭ Technical and Vocational Education Program (TVEP). The Senate committee substitute is lacking funding for the drone program, critical minerals and rare earth development, heavy oil recovery, health programs, and mariculture research funded in the House version. These important projects are Board of Regents requests and we remain optimistic that they will receive support in upcoming versions of the budget. 

After the Senate hears and passes an operating budget, both bodies will nominate three lawmakers from their respective bodies to meet in conference to find consensus on the budget. Once a conference committee substitute is completed, the version will go back to both bodies for final approval.

Infrastructure Grants Symposium

University officials traveled to Anchorage to participate in a two-day  at the Dena’ina Center. On the first day of the symposium, Senator Lisa Murkowski spoke to a standing-room-only crowd of more than 1,000 people about the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funds that will flow into the state. With those federal funds will come opportunities for upgrades to transportation, energy, water and sewer, and broadband infrastructure. Senator Murkowski called the fund injection a “generational opportunity” and she spoke of the thousands of new in-state jobs the infrastructure investments will create. She emphasized the need for a prepared workforce to handle the project demands.

The second day of the grant symposium, participants attended various workshops and panels relating to critical regional infrastructure needs, workforce development, and technical grant writing assistance. Several university experts led the discussion on workforce development. 

News coverage of the event can be found .

Higher Education Investment Fund Update

On Thursday, the House passed Representative DzDz’s , the legislation protecting the Higher Education Investment Fund from being swept into the Constitutional Budget Reserve. While the current House version of the operating budget recapitalizes the fund with a one-time $395 million injection, the fund is currently still subject to a sweep into the Constitutional Budget Reserve if lawmakers fail to vote for a reverse sweep. Rep. DzDz’s legislation enshrines the HEIF, protecting it from the “sweep” in future years. House Bill 229 passed 23-9 with many lawmakers excused for the Easter Weekend. Watch the floor discussion .

Workforce Development Presentation

On Wednesday in Senate Finance, President Pitney and AVP Workforce Development Teri Cothren joined with several industry partners along with the Department of Labor and Workforce Development (DOWLD) and the Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) to describe Ӱԭn workforce shortages in the areas of construction, maritime and health care. The university system representatives and partners emphasized current initiatives underway to remediate the situation. Watch the hearing 

Importantly, some budget proposals, including focusing on increasing the health workforce in Ӱԭ (at UAA’s College of Health, for example), have been supported by the House.  We’re optimistic that the Senate and the Governor’s office sees the wisdom of that funding.

Next Week’s Calendar

Tuesday, April 19

  • 9:00 a.m. – Senate Finance: : “Appropriations: Supplemental; Capital”
  • 11:00 a.m. - Joint Floor Session: Annual Address from U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan
  • 1:00 p.m. - Senate Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/loans/funds” & : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget” / : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/loans/funds” & : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”
  • 1:30 p.m. – House Finance: : “Appropriations: Supplemental; Capital”

Wednesday, April 20

  • 9:00 a.m. – House Finance: : “Add Faculty Member University Board of Regents”
  • 9:00 a.m. – Senate Education: : “School Apprenticeship Programs; Tax Credits”
  • 3:30 p.m. – Senate Resources: : “Microreactors”

Thursday, April 21

  • 9:00 a.m. – Senate Finance: : “Municipal Bond Bank: UA, Loan and Bond Limits”
  • 9:00 a.m. – House Finance: : “Retirement Systems; Defined Benefit Options”
  • 1:00 p.m – Senate Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/loans/funds” & : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget” / : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/loans/funds” & : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”

Friday, April 22

  • 9:00 a.m. – Senate Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/loans/funds” & : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget” / : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/loans/funds” & : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”
  • 1:30 p.m. – House Finance: : “Free/reduced Tuition For Essential Workers”

April 8, 2022

Lawmakers consider the state operating budget and a newly introduced infrastructure appropriation bill  

After a one-week delay due to a COVID-19 outbreak, the members of the House debated the operating budget, , on the House floor. In total, 88 amendments were submitted, which lawmakers spent the full week discussing. Debate on the budget is expected to last through Saturday. During the amendment process funding for the University of Ӱԭ has remained fully intact. Find a full list of budget amendments and the House’s actions .

Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee adopted a  of the Senate’s version of the operating budget, , with the changes adopted last week during budget subcommittee closeouts. Those changes included adding the following amounts to the University of Ӱԭ budget:

  • $13.5 million for fixed and operating cost increases
  • $2 million for Alternative Energy Research 
  • $1 million to support teacher practicums/student teaching pilot
  • $1 million to support health care clinicals - small pilot
  • $635,900 to continue the Ӱԭ Library Network and Imagination Library
  • $881,800 in FY22 supplemental funding to have the correct Ӱԭ Technical and Vocational Education Program funding available
  • $357,600 for Local 6070 1-year contract extension.

Both the House and Senate operating budget bills include a provision to help offset increased fuel and utility costs. Similar to previous legislation, the amount distributed will be based on the year-to-date average price of oil and UA’s share of the funding will be between 12-18%.  

Notably, the Senate committee substitute lacks funding for drone, critical minerals, mariculture, health, and heavy oil research that is currently included in the House version. If differences still exist after both bodies pass their respective versions, the variances will be sorted out in a conference committee. We encourage the Senate to give the highest consideration to these special “economic recovery areas” as we believe they help all of Ӱԭ. 

Separate from the operating budget, the Governor submitted to both bodies an appropriation bill related to funding associated with the bipartisan federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). The bills () include the following funding for the university:

  • $7.5 million federal funds and $2 million match for rare earth mineral security
  • $500,000 for a rare earth elements demonstration facility

The funding for rare earth elements is complementary to the funding for critical mineral research currently included in the House version of the operating budget. University officials will continue to focus on federal infrastructure funding next week at the Infrastructure Grant Symposium hosted by Senator Murkowski’s office. 

Next Week’s Calendar

Monday, April 11

  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Education: : “School Apprenticeship Programs; Tax Credit”
  • 1:30 p.m. - Senate Labor & Commerce: : Teacher Registered Apprentice Programs
  • 3:30 p.m. - Senate Resources: : “Microreactors”

Wednesday, April 13

  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Finance: : “Appropriations: Supplemental; Capital”
  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Education: : “School Apprenticeship Programs; Tax Credit”
  • 1:00 p.m. - Senate Finance: : “Workforce Development Issues Panel with Industry, Administration, and University of Ӱԭ President Pat Pitney and Associate Vice President Teri Cothren”
  • 1:30 p.m. - Senate Labor & Commerce: : “Intellectual Property of Employees”

Thursday, April 14

  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/loans/funds” : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”, &  “ Appropriations: Capital; Reappropriations; Supplemental”

Friday, April 15

  • 9:00 a.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Supplemental; Capital”
  • 1:30 p.m. -  House Finance: : “Broadband: Office, Grants, Parity”

April 1, 2022

The Legislature Wrestles With COVID-19 and the University of Ӱԭ Senate Subcommittee Budget Close Out Takes a Step Forward

This week a COVID-19 breakout in the Capitol caused significant delays in progress for both the House and the Senate. As early as Monday, the House began to cancel floor sessions - a trend that lasted all week. The delay is notable as the House was originally scheduled to vote on the operating budget. While many legislators remain optimistic that the legislative session will wrap up by the constitutionally mandated 121-day deadline, delays in budget hearings could mean that legislators remain in Juneau past the deadline on May 19th. Meanwhile, in the Senate, some meetings were canceled, however, the Senate Finance Committee still held budget subcommittee close-outs.

Importantly, on Friday, April 1, the University of Ӱԭ Senate Finance Subcommittee was closed out.  The relevant budget documents can be found .  

We’re grateful for the work of Senator Hoffman, Senator Stedman and Senator Bishop. Communication has been really thorough and positive.    

Some key additions to the Senate Finance Subcommittee version of the budget include:

  • $9.5 million for fixed and operating cost increases
  • $2 million for Alternative Energy Research 
  • $1 million to support teacher practicums/student teaching pilot
  • $1 million to support health care clinicals - small pilot
  • $635,900 to continue the Ӱԭ library Network and Imagination Library
  • $881,800 to have the correct Ӱԭ Technical and Vocational Education Program funding available (FY22 supplemental funding)

The Senate Subcommittee close out is an important step, however, there is still much work to be done as the budget travels and needs approval from both floors of the Senate and House. 

Noteworthy: Any differences in the budget will likely be worked out in the conference committee at the end of session.

Bills on the Move

Even while both bodies slowed down,  some committees continued to hear bills. In House Education, lawmakers voted to move  out of committee. The bill, sponsored by Senator Gary Stevens would require the Board of Regents to prepare and provide the Legislature with a biennial report of our universities’ accreditation statuses. The bill will now be transmitted to House State Affairs.

The Senate Education Committee separately passed out  relating to teacher residency  programs, limited teacher certificates, teacher apprenticeship programs, and teacher retention. Since the bill was introduced in early March, the Senate Education Committee spent seven hearings on the subject. Superintendents and principals from both urban and rural communities testified on the immediate need to train and retain teachers. Every district that testified reported having numerous vacant teaching positions they were unable to fill. Many stated that improving teacher training programs, teacher licensure, and teacher benefits would be welcome tools in recruiting new teachers to their districts. 

UA in the Capitol

The Ӱԭ Council of School Administrators as well as the Ӱԭ Association of Secondary School Principals were in Juneau for their annual legislative fly-in. UA State Relations Manager Sara Perman spoke to attendees about the university system’s focus on education-related legislation. She noted the importance of stabilizing the system’s budget as well as maintaining the Higher Education Investment Fund. Sara discussed the virtual and in-person middle college programs offered by all three universities, as well as dual credit CTE programs. Participants were also interested in the university system’s role in teacher training and retention efforts around the state.

Next Week’s Calendar

Monday, April 4

  • 1:00 p.m. - House Finance: : “Ӱԭ Higher Education Investment Fund’

  • 3:15 p.m. - House Labor & Commerce: House Bill 108: “Concurrent Secondary & Trade School”

Wednesday, April 6

  • 1:00 p.m - Senate Finance:  : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds”, & : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”, & “Appropriations: Infrastructure Bill” (Pending introduction & referral)

  • 3:30 p.m. - Senate Resources: : “Microreactors”

Thursday, April 7

  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Finance: Public testimony from Interior, Fairbanks, Copper River Valley & Offnets on  : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds”, & : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”, & : “Appropriations: Capital, Reappropriations, Supplemental”

  • 1:00 p.m. - Senate Finance: Public testimony from Nome, Bethel, Kotzebue, Utqiaqvik, Unalaska, Dillingham & Offnets on  : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds”, & : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”, & : “Appropriations: Capital, Reappropriations, Supplemental”

Friday, April 8

  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Finance: Public testimony from Southeast, Prince William SOunds, Kodiak & Offnets on  : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds”, & : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”, & : “Appropriations: Capital, Reappropriations, Supplemental”

  • 1:00 p.m. - Senate Finance: Public testimony from Kenai Peninsula, Anchorage, & Matanuska Susitna Valley on  : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds”, & : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”, & : “Appropriations: Capital, Reappropriations, Supplemental”

The House prepares to take up the budget this week while the Senate closes out its finance subcommittees

March 28, 2022 

Last week the House Finance Committee met to take up operating budget amendments.  After four days of discussion, on Thursday the House Finance Committee passed out an amended operating budget which now goes to the House floor for debate.

The amended House Finance budget includes additional funding for the University of Ӱԭ. Earlier this month, following the recommendations of the University of Ӱԭ House Finance Subcommittee, the Finance Committee added $4 million for fixed and operating cost increases, $3.5 million for College of Health Program faculty, $250,000 for medical simulation equipment and technology, and $635,900 for the Ӱԭ Library Network and the Imagination Library. In the  released on Friday, House members added funds for the following:

  • $7 million for mariculture research and development including growing workforce capacity, expanding infrastructure, developing applications for kelp mariculture, and an ISER study researching the impact of economic shock on commercial fisheries.

  • $200,000 for Ӱԭ Area Health Education Centers to expand healthcare workforce development, particularly for rural and underserved communities.

In the Senate, lawmakers continued to hear from state agencies in finance subcommittees. The subcommittees are expected to close out this week. The University of Ӱԭ Finance Subcommittee will meet at 9:00 a.m. on Friday morning for a final closeout. Expect to see the Senate’s budget priorities begin to materialize in this closeout.

UA in the Capitol

The University of Ӱԭ Faculty Alliance was in Juneau last week. Members met with President Pitney over the weekend to discuss the university’s budget process and learn more about the System Office’s legislative priorities. Members separately met with legislators to share their perspectives on both the successes and challenges of the university system.

This Week’s Calendar

Monday, March 28

  • 1:30 p.m. – Senate Labor & Commerce: : “Broadband: Office, Grants Parity”

  • 3:15 p.m. – House Labor & Commerce: : “Concurrent Secondary & Trade School”

Wednesday, March 30

  • 9:00 a.m. – Senate Education: : “Teacher Registered Apprentice Programs”  

  • 1:30 p.m. – House Finance: : “Broadband: Office, Grants, Parity”

Friday, April 1

  • 9:00 a.m. – Senate Finance University of Ӱԭ Budget Subcommittee: Budget Closeout

March 18, 2022 

Lawmakers consider budget increases after receiving positive Spring 2022 Revenue Forecast

This week marks the halfway point for the constitutionally mandated 121-day legislative session. During the week lawmakers received an updated picture of the state’s finances and President Pitney spoke with Senate Finance Committee members about the university system’s current operations and our budget requests.

On Tuesday, the Department of Revenue released the much-anticipated . The Revenue Forecast includes the department’s spring forecast of oil price, oil production, and state revenue. Lawmakers traditionally utilize the forecast as a fiscal outlook for the upcoming two years - it helps determine the bottom line lawmakers are willing to consider for the proposed budget. The updated forecast released on Tuesday projects that with updated oil prices, the state’s undesignated funds will climb by $3.6 billion over the next two years - an increase of $1.2 billion in FY22 and $2.4 billion in FY23 from the totals projected in the . The newly released forecast was developed using Ӱԭ North Slope crude (ANS) estimates of $91.68/barrel in FY22 and $101 in FY23, an average price based on the five day window between March 9-13. 

With the revenue forecast in hand, the House Finance Committee is now resuming conversations on the operating budget. With a potential budget surplus, legislators will have to decide how to best manage the excess. Conversations include funding deferred maintenance and critical infrastructure, boosting relief payments and PFDs, or putting dollars into the State’s savings accounts.  . Even at $80/barrel, the state would still collect $6.7 billion in revenue in FY23 - a $770 million increase from last fall’s projections. The House Finance Committee will start considering amendments to the budget next week.

Positive revenue projections may bode well for the university system. On Monday afternoon, President Pitney presented a University of Ӱԭ overview to the Senate Finance Committee. She reminded lawmakers of the drastic reductions the system has endured in the last decade. She shared the priorities for our universities moving forward and the strategies for meeting those goals. She highlighted the system’s budget requests and discussed the campuses’ deferred maintenance needs. Senators requested that President Pitney provide the committee with a list of the system's top $70 million in deferred maintenance priorities, a $20 million increase over the $50 million list of priorities initially provided. Senators expressed their concerns about the impacts of inflation if the university system does not tackle its deferred maintenance needs now.

Next Week’s Calendar

Monday, March 21

  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating budget/loans/funds” & : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”
  • 3:30 p.m. - Senate Resources: : “Microreactors”

Tuesday, March 22

  • 9:00 a.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating budget/loans/funds” & : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating budget/loans/funds” & : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”

Wednesday, March 23

  • 9:00 a.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating budget/loans/funds” & : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”
  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Finance: : “Education & Supplemental Loan Program”
  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Education: : “Teacher Registered Apprentice Programs”
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating budget/loans/funds” & : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”
  • 1:30 p.m. - Senate Labor & Commerce: : “Broadband: Office, Grants, Parity”

Thursday, March 24

  • 9:00 a.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating budget/loans/funds”, : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget” & : “Ӱԭ Higher Education Investment Fund”
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating budget/loans/funds”, : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget” & : “Broadband: Office, Grants, Parity”

Friday, March 25

  • 9:00 a.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating budget/loans/funds” & : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”
  • 1:30 p.m. -  House Finance:  : “Appropriations: Operating budget/loans/funds”, : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget” & “Appropriations: Capital, Reappropriations, Supplemental” 
  • 1:30 p.m. -  Senate Labor & Commerce: : “Intellectual Property of Employees” & : “Ӱԭ Education Savings Programs/eligibility”

Saturday, March 26

11:00 a.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating budget/loans/funds” & : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”

Federal Updates

In this edition of the Capitol Report, University of Ӱԭ Federal Relations Director John Latini provides a brief overview of legislative happenings in Washington D.C.

Federal FY22 Appropriations Process Completed

Earlier this month, Congress passed and President Biden signed into law H.R. 2471, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022. This $1.5 trillion consolidated legislation includes all 12 appropriations bills that fund the federal government. With passage and the President’s signature, this completes the FY22 federal budget and appropriations process, despite being well into the federal fiscal year already. A general summary of the consolidated measure can be found and more specific information can be found. The UA Office of Government Relations is working on a comprehensive summary of the Consolidated Appropriations Act which will be distributed at a later date.

For the first time in more than a dozen years, Congress included Congressionally Directed Spending (CDS), commonly referred to as earmarks, in the Consolidated Appropriations Act. UA secured nine earmarks for a total of approximately $20 million. Ӱԭ received five earmarks, UAA received three earmarks and UAS received one earmark. These federal funds will enable UA to conduct research on counter unmanned aerial system technologies to support law enforcement operations and preventing military suicides in remote areas including Ӱԭ, and to expand the Ӱԭ Native Science & Engineering Program (ANSEP). Senator Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young were particularly supportive of UA’s earmark and general appropriations requests in FY22. Senator Dan Sullivan also worked to support UA by helping to secure funding for the Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies.

Federal FY23 Budget & Appropriations Process Outlook

Congress is likely to begin working on the FY23 budget and appropriations process right away. We expect the Congressional Appropriations Committees to release the rules governing the earmark and general appropriations request process for FY23 in the next week or two. The UA Office of Government Relations has received all UA’s earmark and appropriations priorities for FY23 and is working diligently to submit requests to the Ӱԭ Congressional Delegation.

We expect the Biden Administration to release its FY23 budget request sometime between mid-April and mid-May but timing remains very fluid. Once the budget request is released, the UA Government Relations team will provide a robust summary of key priorities of interest to UA.

In the coming months, Congress will hold hearings and markup some of the FY23 appropriations bill that fund the federal government. However, given that Congress has not passed an appropriations bill on time in more than 20 years and it is an election year, we can expect a Continuing Resolution (CR) that will fund federal agencies at current FY22 levels until late November or December. The outcome of the midterm elections will be a key factor in determining when the FY23 budget and appropriations process could be completed. 

March 14, 2022 

The Legislature Anticipates Substantial Revenue Increases with the Release of the Spring Revenue Forecast, and UA Experts participate in Juneau for Ӱԭ Aerospace Day

Legislators have postponed operating budget conversations while they wait for the release of the Spring Revenue Forecast later this week. In the meantime, the House has been considering deferred maintenance capital requests. Separately, last week representatives from the Geophysical Institute and the Ӱԭ Center for Unmanned Aircraft System Integration (ACUASI) joined the Lieutenant Governor in Juneau to celebrate Ӱԭ Aerospace Day.

Two weeks ago, the House Finance Committee introduced the  for the operating budget. This new version of the bill includes the amendments accepted by house finance subcommittees earlier in the week. Notably, the operating budget for the University of Ӱԭ was increased from $871.4 million in the governor’s proposed budget to $879.8 million in the committee substitute. The changes included an additional $4 million for fixed and operating cost increases, $3.5 million for College of Health Program faculty, $250,000 for medical simulation equipment and technology, and $635,000 for the Ӱԭ Library Network and the Imagination Library. The committee substitute also includes $1.6 million in the Department of Education and Early Development (DEED) budget to expand the WWAMI program. The $1.6 million may be carried forward until FY24 in order to give the program time to increase its capacity.

Budget negotiations have slowed as legislators wait for the March 15 updated revenue forecast. With Ӱԭ crude oil prices hitting $125 last week, revenue projections are anticipated to be much higher than initially projected last fall. Legislators will utilize the spring revenue forecast to inform their upcoming budgetary decisions. In the meantime, the House Finance Committee is beginning to review capital budget requests. The Senate Finance Committee will start reviewing the operating budget again on Wednesday, March 16, starting with department overviews.

UA in the Capitol

The House Finance Committee is beginning its work considering the capital budget. Last Thursday the UA Government Relations team, as well as facility managers from our three universities, shared the deferred maintenance needs of the university system. Legislators responded positively to the request. You can watch the hearing .

While most eyes were on the budget process, the university system had several other appearances in the Capitol last week. Last Wednesday, Lieutenant Governor Kevin Meyer invited experts from the university system to present in Senate Labor & Commerce for Ӱԭ Aerospace Day. Dr. Cathy Cahill with the Ӱԭ Center for Unmanned Aircraft System Integration (ACUASI) and Dr. Robert McCoy with the Geophysical Institute presented the relevant research being done at Ӱԭ. You can watch the hearing . Lieutenant Governor Meyer invited Dr. Cahill and ACUASI Business Director Jimmy Parrish to his office after the event to hear more details on ACUASI programs.

Separately, Dr. Amy Vinelove, Director of the Ӱԭ School of Education, presented to the Senate Education Committee on Wednesday morning. Dr. Vinelove shared the university system’s efforts and pathways for training Ӱԭn teachers. Committee members were deeply interested in UAA’s teacher accreditation program. You can watch the hearing .

Bills on the Move

Wednesday afternoon the House Labor & Commerce Committee considered Representative Bryce Edgmon’s (I- Dillingham) , relating to creating a broadband office and advisory board. The legislation, as written, includes a member from the University of Ӱԭ on the advisory board. We support this legislation, as the university system is one of the largest users of broadband statewide. You can watch the hearing .

Representative Andy DzDz’s (D-Anchorage)  relating to securing the Higher Education Investment Fund, was heard in House Finance on Thursday morning. UA Government Relations Director Chad Hutchison spoke in the committee to share the university system’s support for the legislation. You can watch the hearing .

On Friday morning, the Senate Education committee heard  relating to textbook cost transparency and  – the “Ӱԭ Apprenticeship Expansion Act”. The committee passed Senate Bill 146 out of committee. It is waiting for a referral to the next committee.

This Week’s Calendar

Monday, March 14

  • 8:00a.m. – House Education: : “U of A Regents Reporting Requirements”
            : Concurrent Secondary & Trade School”

         : “Ӱԭ Performance Scholarship; Eligibility”

  • 9:00a.m. – Senate Education: : “Teacher Registered Apprenticeship Programs”

  • 1:00p.m. - Senate Finance: 

  • 1:00p.m. - House Resources: : “Microreactors”

Tuesday, March 15

  • 8:00a.m. - House Community & Regional Affairs: : “Ӱԭ Food Strategy Task Force”

  • 3:15: House Labor & Commerce: : “Broadband; Office, Grants, Parity”

Wednesday, March 16

  • 9:00 a.m.: House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds”
  • 9:00 a.m.: Senate Education: : “Teacher Registered Apprenticeship Programs”
  • 1:30 p.m.: House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds”

Thursday, March 17

  • 1:30 p.m.: House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds”

Friday, March 18

  • 8:00a.m. – House Education:
  • 9:00 a.m.: House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds”
  • 9:00 a.m.: Senate Education: : “Teacher Registered Apprenticeship Programs”
  • 1:30 p.m.: House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds”

March 4, 2022

The House begins public testimony on the operating budget and the University has a strong showing in Juneau

Today marks the 45th day of Legislative Session. Notably, in 2006, Ӱԭ voters narrowly approved a ballot measure setting a 90-day limit for legislative sessions. However, the Ӱԭ Constitution still specifies that the session may last up to 121 days. Lawmakers haven’t adjourned in 90 days since 2013. The length of the legislative session is a hot topic as the House Finance Committee begins public testimony on the operating budget. Many wonder if the Legislature will pass a budget and finish its work in 121 days.

This week the university system has had an increased presence in Juneau. The University of Ӱԭ Foundation held its quarterly Board of Directors meeting. The Foundation also hosted a legislative reception at University of Ӱԭ Southeast’s Technical Education Center. Separately, UA President Pitney presented the State of the University address to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce and the general public.

University of Ӱԭ Foundation’s Legislative Reception

The University of Ӱԭ Foundation Board of Directors, in association with UA President Pitney and UAS Chancellor Karen Carey, invited policymakers to visit the UAS Technical Education Center for an evening showcasing the university’s career education programs. Several lawmakers and legislative staff attended the event where they had the opportunity to tour the facilities and check out state-of-the-art simulators. By all accounts, the evening was a great success and legislators shared their support for UA’s efforts to expand the state’s workforce.

State of the University Address

President Pitney presented the annual State of the University address at the March 3 Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon. The event was televised on  as well as live streamed to the University of Ӱԭ . President Pitney highlighted areas of success across the system, including student and faculty accomplishments. She also discussed the university system's critical role in enhancing and expanding the state’s workforce. Pitney touted the university system’s research in critical earth minerals, heavy oil extraction and unmanned aircraft systems. She concluded by emphasizing the importance of higher education, noting the universities’ roles in boosting economic development in the state.

Budget Actions

The House Finance Committee began the week with budget close-outs. The entire House Finance Committee came together to hear the actions taken in budget subcommittees. The University Subcommittee added just over $8.45 million to the governor’s proposed FY22 budget. The increase includes an additional $4 million for fixed costs increases to match the amount requested by the Board of Regents. Notably, even with this $4 million and the initial $4 million in the governor’s proposed budget, UA is still $3.1 million short of the total fixed cost increases, and the university system will need to continue to identify additional efficiencies across the system to fund the operating cost increases. Also included in the subcommittee’s budget increases is $3.75 million for expanded health care education programs and technology at UAA, $635.9 thousand for the Ӱԭ Library Network to preserve funding for the Statewide Electronic Doorway (SLED) databases and to support the Ӱԭ Library Catalog and the Imagination Library, and a $72.3 thousand increase in funding for the Technical and Vocational Education Program.

After subcommittee budget closeouts, the House Finance Committee opened up public testimony on the budget. Testimony was heard Thursday and will continue Friday and Saturday.

Friday, March 4

Public Testimony – 1:30 - 3:30 p.m.     
Callers: Fairbanks, Kenai, Mat-Su, Anchorage, Bethel, Cordova, Kotzebue, Nome, Utqiagvik     

Saturday, March 5

11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.       
Callers: Off Net Testifiers             

To publicly testify, you can go to your respective legislative information office or call in:

  • From Juneau – (907) 586-9085
  • From Anchorage – (907) 563-9085
  • From the rest of the state – 1 (844) 586-9085

Next Week’s Calendar

Monday, March 7

  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: : “Retirement Systems; Defined Benefit Options”

Tuesday, March 8

  • 3:30 p.m. - Senate Community & Regional Affairs:: "Microreactors"

Wednesday, March 9

  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Education: 

  • 1:30 p.m. - Senate Labor and Commerce: 

  • 3:15 p.m. - House Labor & Commerce: : "Broadband: Office, Grants, Parity"

Thursday, March 10

  • 9:00 a.m. - House Finance: : “Ӱԭ Higher Education Investment Fund

  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: 

Friday, March 11

  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Education: : “University: Textbooks/Materials Cost" & : “School Apprenticeship Programs; Tax Credits”

  • 1:00 p.m. - House Resources: : “Microreactors"

February 25, 2022

Lisa Murkowski addresses the Legislature and the House considers Budget Amendments

Today marks the 39th day of the legislative session. U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski was in Juneau earlier this week to give her annual joint legislative address to lawmakers. Legislators were also busy updating the Capitol’s COVID-19 policies and closing out the House budget subcommittees. 

Lisa Murkowski’s Address

Ӱԭ’s senior U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski addressed the Legislature on Tuesday morning. During her hour-long address she discussed relevant topics including Ӱԭ’s strategic military placement, the federal infrastructure bill, and workforce development. One of the key takeaways from her address was the critical nature of investing in and building up Ӱԭ’s workforce. Federal dollars will be pouring into the state for infrastructure-related projects over the next few years, but it’s imperative the state has the people available to do the associated jobs. She praised the Career and Technical Education programs currently available but maintained that the state needs to do even more to expand our workforce.  Listen to Murkowski’s address .  

For Those Planning a Capitol Visit: COVID-19 Policy Update

The Legislative Council, a joint committee of senators and representatives that considers legislative affairs, met on Wednesday morning and voted to amend the Capitol’s COVID-19 policies. Effective immediately, masks and regular testing are no longer mandatory in the Capitol complex. However, individual offices may opt to continue enforcement within their own offices.

Personal Legislation Deadline

Friday, February 18,  was the deadline for legislators to submit their own personal legislation. Starting this week, new bills may only be introduced by way of a committee sponsor. Committee sponsored bills are introduced at the will of the committee chair and may require approval of members of the committee prior to introduction. At this point, we can expect to see far fewer bills introduced as committee sponsorship is usually reserved for high priority items.

In the House, 48 new personal bills were introduced; in the Senate, another 23. Notably, several bills related to broadband were introduced. The University Government Relations team is keeping a close eye on broadband-related topics as the state is poised to receive a significant influx of federal dollars to upgrade and expand broadband capacity statewide. As one of the largest users of broadband in the state, we are mindful of efforts to reduce costs and make broadband more accessible in rural communities. 

  • House Majority Rules Chair Representative Bryce Edgmon (I-Dillingham) introduced , “Broadband: Office, Grants, Parity,” to establish a statewide broadband office, advisory board, and create a broadband parity adjustment fund to offset costs to broadband consumers. Notably, the creation of a statewide broadband office is mandatory in order for the state to receive federal broadband dollars.  We would like to thank Representative Edgmon and Representative Grier Hopkins (D-Fairbanks) for making sure the university system is part of the Broadband Advisory Board.
     

  • Separately, , “Ӱԭ Energy and Broadband Authority,” introduced by House Majority Leader Representative Chris Tuck (D- Anchorage), would expand the Ӱԭ Energy Authority to the Ӱԭ Energy and Broadband Authority”, and give it the authority to upgrade and finance effective broadband systems, as well as increase and improve availability, affordability and performance of broadband data and internet services.
        

  • Representative Tuck also introduced , “Broadband Cost Equalization Fund,” which would create an equalization fund to align the cost of broadband services statewide to a level similar to costs paid in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau. The fund is set up similar to the Power Cost Equalization fund which brings down energy costs for power consumers in rural areas.

Legislation Spotlight:

At the request of a Capitol Report reader, we shed additional light on a bill introduced last year. , “Retirement Systems, Defined Benefit Options,” introduced by Representative  Hopkins, would give certain public Ӱԭs and teachers the option to choose between a defined benefit or defined contribution retirement plan. This legislation applies specifically to Tier IV PERS Ӱԭs and Tier III TRS Ӱԭs. Currently, these Ӱԭs are subject to a defined contribution plan – a plan that puts the onus on Ӱԭs to contribute and invest in their retirement accounts. HB 220 would allow  these same Ӱԭs to opt into a new plan, one that would utilize a defined benefit plan, commonly known as a traditional pension plan. The modest pension is projected to be cost neutral to the state. University Ӱԭs and faculty would be eligible for this new contribution system as long as they aren’t enrolled in the University of Ӱԭ’s Optional Retirement Plan (ORP). Individuals would have 90 days to opt in once the new tier was established, and in doing so, they would be able to roll over their deferred compensation plan into the new defined benefits plan.  

House Bill 220 has two committee referrals in the House. It made it through the first committee of referral, and it currently is in the House Finance Committee. If the House passes the legislation, it will then go to the Senate where it will receive additional committee referrals. With limited time left in the session, there is discussion of committees beginning to conclude business by mid-March. If this comes to pass, it is likely that only legislation deemed priority legislation by House and Senate leadership will continue to receive hearings.

University Budget
The University of Ӱԭ House Finance Subcommittee met this morning to consider members’ amendments to the University of Ӱԭ’s budget. Four amendments were introduced:

  1. Amendment 1 from Representative Wool (D-Fairbanks) adds $4 million to help meet additional fixed cost increase impacts for UA. This $4 million would bring the UA operating budget in line with the Board of Regents initial budget request.

  2. Amendment 2 from Representative Wool adds $3.75 million for health care programming at UAA, including updating program technology and medical manikins.

  3. Amendment 3 from Representative Wool adds $635,000 in funding to preserve the Statewide Library Electronic Doorway (SLED) databases as well as support the Ӱԭ Library Catalog and the Imagination Library. This funding will support the system that serves 92% of K-12 libraries throughout Ӱԭ.    

  4. Amendment 4 from Representative LeBon (R-Fairbanks) adds $7 million to support UA’s mariculture programs including UAS’  undergraduate fisheries and overall workforce capacity expansion.

The subcommittee passed the first three amendments and they recommended the fourth concerning mariculture, should  be taken up by the House Finance Committee where members would have the ability for a more in-depth discussion about it. 

Next Week’s Calendar

Tuesday, March 1

  • 9:00 a.m. -  Senate Finance: : “Funds Subject to CBR Sweep Provision”
  • 10:15 a.m. - House Energy: : “Microreactors”
  • 1:30 p.m. -   House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds”
  • 1:30 p.m. -   House Finance: : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”

Wednesday, March 2

  • 9:00 a.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds”
  • 9:00 a.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds”
  • 1:30 p.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”
  • 3:15 p.m. - House Labor & Commerce: Presentation: “Workforce development in Rural Ӱԭ”

Thursday, March 3

  • 9:00 a.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds”
  • 9:00 a.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”
  • 1:30 p.m. -   House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds”
  • 1:30 p.m. -   House Finance: : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”

Friday, March 4

  • 8:00 a.m. - House Education: : “Concurrent Secondary & Trade School”
  • 8:00 a.m. - House Education: : “Ӱԭ Performance Scholarship; Eligibility”

Saturday, March 4

  • 11:00 a.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Operating Budget/Loans/Funds”
  • 11:00 a.m. - House Finance: : “Appropriations: Mental Health Budget”

February 18, 2022

The Governor introduces an amended budget with $2.5 million for Ӱԭ Center for Energy and Power’s (ACEP) micro nuclear reactor research

This week the governor’s amended budget was introduced with a set-aside for Ӱԭ’s Ӱԭ Center for Energy and Power. Additionally, student leaders from around the state came to the Capitol to advocate on behalf of the university system, and UA System leadership was invited to speak on a panel about federal infrastructure spending at the annual Ӱԭ Municipal League legislative conference.

On Monday, the governor introduced his amended FY23 operating and capital budget requests. The  is increased by more than $27 million with an added $14.8 million in Unrestricted General Fund (UGF) spending.  The  is increased by $19.35 million with a UGF spending increase of $3.7 million. Notably, the governor’s amended capital budget contains a $2.5 million increase for “emerging energy opportunities in Ӱԭ.'' The proposed funds would go to the Ӱԭ Center for Energy and Power (ACEP) at Ӱԭ to “address important gaps in our understanding of emerging energy technologies and applications for Ӱԭ.” Specifically, the addition would allow ACEP to conduct further research on microreactors - transportable nuclear reactors. The governor is bullish on using micro nuclear reactor power in the state. In fact, the administration recently released two bills,  and , to remove barriers to microreactor development, including requirements for legislative land approval and agency regulations studiesBoth bills had hearings this week. Listen to the hearings  and , respectively.   

In other news, the Capitol has been full of advocacy groups this week. With the Capitol Building open to the public again, many groups from around the state are hosting fly-ins to visit with lawmakers. Notably, the University of Ӱԭ Coalition of Student Leaders met with legislators on Monday and Tuesday this week. Students had the opportunity to meet their own representatives and advocate on behalf of the UA System’s three universities on important issues like the budget.

The Ӱԭ Municipal League hosted its annual winter legislative conference this week. Municipal leaders from around the state were in town to hear from state agency officials, visit with legislators, and advocate for key priority issues.  University system leadership including Interim President Pat Pitney and government relations staff were invited to speak to the conference attendees during a panel on infrastructure spending. They joined representatives from the Ӱԭ Federation of Natives, the Denali Commission, the Ӱԭ Telecom Association and the Ӱԭ Power Association to speak on being an “infrastructure partner” as federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funds enter the state. State Government Relations Director Hutchison and UA Interim President Pitney discussed the critical importance of developing Ӱԭ’s workforce to meet the labor demands associated with the infrastructure bill. UAA’s Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) recently predicted that IIJA could add 14,000 jobs to Ӱԭ’s economy. Our universities are poised to train workers in key industries such as construction and IT. 

Higher Education Investment Fund Update

The Ӱԭ Superior Court released a decision yesterday ruling in favor of the administrations’ decision to sweep the Higher Education Investment Fund (HEIF) into the Constitutional Budget Reserve. The plaintiffs intend to appeal to the Supreme Court.  University system leaders have been watching the litigation closely. The decision is disappointing, however, there is legislative movement to pursue a statutory solution that would remove HEIF from being swept into the CBR entirely. Representative DzDz’s continues to move through the legislature. We continue to support the efforts of Rep. Josephson and the legislature to create stability for the HEIF.

Next Week’s Calendar

Tuesday, February 22

  • 11:00 a.m. - Joint Floor Session - Annual legislative address by U.S Senator Lisa Murkowski
  • 12:00 p.m. - Lunch & Learn - Affordable, Sustainable Housing - Cold Climate Research Center

Wednesday, February 23

  • 3:30 p.m. - House Education - Senate Bill 10: “Free/reduced tuition for essential worker” / House Bill 108: “Concurrent secondary & trade school”

Thursday, February 24

  • 3:30 p.m. - Senate Community and Regional Affairs - Senate Bill 177: “Microreactors”

Friday, February 25

  • 9:00 a.m. - House University of Ӱԭ Finance Subcommittee - Budget Closeout
  • 9:00 a.m. - House Education - House Bill 48: “Ӱԭ Performance Scholarship; eligibility”
  • 9:00 a.m. - Senate Education - Senate Bill 146: “University: textbooks/materials cost”

February 11, 2022

Lawmakers take an in-depth look at the university’s capital requests, the Higher Education Investment Fund, and free tuition for essential workers

The pace is quickly picking up in the Capitol building. Standing committees and finance subcommittees are in full swing. The university system was featured heavily this week with several prominent hearings. In the Senate, lawmakers spoke with student regent Kali Spencer during an initial appointment confirmation hearing. Senators also took a closer look at the university’s deferred maintenance requests in the Senate Finance Committee. In the House, legislators heard bills relating to the Higher Education Investment Fund and free tuition for essential workers. The University of Ӱԭ Finance Subcommittee also invited Interim President Pat Pitney to share the university’s 10-year plan.

UA in the Capitol

In the Senate, the Education Committee held a confirmation hearing for student regent appointee, Kali Spencer. Kali is student body president at UAS where she is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Liberal Arts in interdisciplinary studies with emphasis in political science, psychology, and philosophy. Her regent term runs from 2021-2023. Members of the committee noted her experience with student leadership and were impressed by her letters of recommendation from faculty. The Senators voted unanimously to forward Ms. Spencer’s name to a joint session between the House and Senate for approval. Watch the hearing .

The Senate Finance Committee took an in-depth look at the university’s capital requests. The university’s deferred maintenance requests received bipartisan support. Committee members specifically noted the urgent need for the Moore and Bartlett residence halls renewal. However, Senate Bill 166, the general obligation bond bill and the current vehicle for funding the project, looks unlikely to pass the Legislature. Instead, lawmakers are considering funding the requests in the annual capital budget. Senators also discussed financing options for the university’s request for $20 million in student information technology upgrade. The IT system upgrades and the renewal of Moore and Bartlett are Interim President Pat Pitney’s highest priorities this session. Watch the hearing .

Over in the House, in the Education Committee, lawmakers heard Representative DzDz’s (D-Anchorage)  and Senator 𲵾’s (D-Anchorage) .  

DzDz’s  would allow the Ӱԭ Student Loan Corporation to create subsidiaries managing the financing and facilitation of the Ӱԭ Performance Scholarship, the Ӱԭ Education Grant and the WWAMI medical scholarships. Representatives asked questions about the capacity of the WWAMI program, and the limitations of HEIF scholarships. The bill passed out of the committee with an amendment changing the fund to the Higher Education Investment Trust Fund - a change that would further strengthen the argument that the fund is not sweepable. Watch the hearings  and.

𲵾’s  would give those who were considered “essential workers” during the initial stages of the COVID-19 pandemic access to free or reduced tuition at Ӱԭ’s post-secondary education institutions. Eligible workers would be able to apply for education grants for up to four years, until 2025. The university government relations team gave a short presentation on the value of higher education and the university’s role in growing the state’s workforce. Lawmakers expressed interest in the limitations of the grant program and asked about accountability measures. Watch the hearing .

University of Ӱԭ Interim President Pat Pitney presented to the House UA Finance Subcommittee this morning. She shared the university system’s 10-year plan with lawmakers. She discussed the university’s budget projections as well as strategic initiatives. Notably, she highlighted the Board of Regents 5 strategic goals and discussed UA’s priorities to increase student enrollment, develop the Ӱԭ workforce, promote arctic policies and research, advance the Ӱԭ Native Successive Initiative, expand the finance industry workforce, Increase fisheries and ocean science in southeast, and revise the university’s business models for modernization and efficiency. Committee members were interested in the status of the university’s teacher education programs, the impact of the Higher Education Investment Fund on in-state student enrollment, and the potential outcomes of budget increases. Watch today's hearing .

Other news:

In addition to talking about the university’s capital requests, members of Senate Finance heard from Neil Steininger, director of Office Management and Budget, about the Governor’s supplemental request to the FY22 operating budget. The total supplemental budget amounted to approximately $901 million. Among the items in the supplemental are funds for reducing staffing shortages in the Department of Corrections, restoring jury trials, implementing election security measures, and settling various lawsuits, as well as $795.6 million for a PFD back-payment. Lawmakers took the opportunity to investigate previously vetoed budget items that were resurrected in this supplemental budget. Watch the hearing .

On Wednesday, both bodies convened in a joint session to listen to the State of the Judiciary, an annual address from the judicial branch. Chief Justice Daniel Winfree spoke to lawmakers about both the triumphs and the setbacks the judicial branch has experienced since the onset of the pandemic. He spoke about the courts’ adaptation to remote hearings in early 2020, but noted the significant backlog of jury trial cases. Winfree emphasized that the governor’s supplemental budget includes $1.8 million to address the backlog and he thanked the Legislature for considering the request. He also noted a request for just over $1 million in computer software and network upgrades following the cyberattack the court system experienced last year. He concluded his speech with a special note to Ӱԭ’s young people: “Be concerned; be active; be involved in government. You too can be a governor; a legislator; or a judge or justice. Live your dreams and make Ӱԭ an even better place”. Watch the State of the Judiciary .

Bills on the Move

Monday, February 14

  • 8:00 - House Education -  - Free/reduced Tuition for Essential Workers

  • 1:30 - House Finance -  - Appropriations: Operating Budgets/Loans/Fund

Tuesday, February 15

  • 10:15 - House Energy -  - Microreactors

  • 1:30 - Senate Transportation -  - G.O. Bonds for Infrastructure Projects

  • 1:30 - Senate Health and Social Services -  - Ӱԭ Education Savings Programs/Eligibility

  • 3:30 - Senate Community and Regional Affairs -  - Microreactors

Wednesday, February 16

  • 9:00 - Senate Finance - : Appropriations: Capital; Reappropriations; Supplemental

Thursday, February 17

  • 1:30 - House Finance -  - Appropriations: Operating Budgets/Loans/Fund

  • 3::30 - Senate Community and Regional Affairs -  - Microreactors

Friday, February 18

1:30 - House Finance -  - Appropriations: Operating Budgets/Loans/Funds

February 4, 2022

COVID-19 in the Capitol as legislators take in-depth look at Operating Budget


Capitol COVID-19 Outbreak:

The House held a technical floor session on Wednesday and several standing committees were canceled after one or more members of the House tested positive for COVID-19. Many representatives were close contacts and were asked to quarantine outside of the building until they could safely return. The outbreak proved disruptive as it pushed the business of the House back by several days. Many planned hearings have been postponed until next week.

UA in the Capitol

Fortunately, the House University of Ӱԭ Finance Subcommittee was still able to meet earlier today to review the university’s budget additions. Committee members heard from UA experts about the drone program, our heavy oil recovery method research and development, and our critical minerals and rare earth elements research. Committee members were interested in the difference between the university’s drones and those used by the U.S. military, the refinery process for heavy oil, and the environmental impacts of processing critical earth minerals. See today’s presentations .

The Senate Finance Committee has been meeting to review the state’s finances closely. This week they first heard the  from Neil Steininger, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Following Mr. Steininger’s presentation, the committee heard an  of , the operating budget, by Legislative Finance Director Alexei Painter. Notably, when reviewing the Constitutional Budget Reserve (CBR), Senator Bert Stedman (R-Sitka) said that he would like to separate the Higher Education Investment Fund (HEIF) from the remaining CBR funds, indicating that the Senate Finance Committee intends to preserve HEIF funds and separate them, either by law or litigation. Later, in the same presentation, Mr. Painter discussed the federal COVID-19 and infrastructure funds coming to the state. The university’s $20M capital request updating student information technology systems is currently funded from the State’s federal coronavirus capital projects fund and Mr. Painter believes it meets the federal funding guidelines because it falls under “projects enabling remote work, education, and health monitoring.” 

Upcoming Events

The university Government Relations team will have the opportunity to highlight our drones program, critical earth minerals research, heavy oil recovery research and ACEP’s work in microreactors this afternoon during an informal discussion with legislators and staff. UA experts in attendance include Dr. Cathy Cahill and Director Gwen Holdmann. 

Monday, February 7

  • 9:00 a.m.:  - Consideration of Governor's Appointee: Kali Spencer to University of Ӱԭ Board of Regents

Tuesday, Feb 8

  • 10:15 a.m.:  - “An Act on Microreactors” (Pending introduction & referral)

Wednesday, Feb 9

  • 9:00 a.m.:  - “Free/Reduced Tuition for Essential Workers”

  • 11:00 a.m.: Joint Session - State of the Judiciary Address by Chief Justice Winfree

  • 1:30 p.m.:  - “Approp: Operating Budget/Loans/Fund”

Thursday, Feb 10

  • 10:15 a.m. :  - “An Act on Microreactors” (Pending introduction & referral)

Friday, Feb 11

  • 9:00 a.m.:  - Discussion of FY 23 Research and Development Project Requests / Presentation: University of Ӱԭ 10-Year Vision

  • 9:00 a.m.:  - “Ӱԭ Higher Education Investment Fund”

January 28, 2022 

President Pitney Testifies in Juneau and Governor Dunleavy Outlines Vision for Ӱԭ in Annual State of the State Address

In the second week of the regular legislative session, UA Interim President Pat Pitney spent time in Juneau presenting to several legislative committees, and Governor Mike Dunleavy outlined his visions for Ӱԭ’s future in his State of the State address.

President Pitney in Juneau

On Monday, UA Interim President Pat Pitney spoke to the Senate Education Committee where she provided an up-to-date overview of the University of Ӱԭ System. In the presentation, President Pitney discussed current enrollment numbers, the impacts of COVID-19 and UA’s role in meeting Ӱԭ’s workforce needs. Senators asked great questions about teacher education programs and online education opportunities. They expressed an appetite for continued partnerships between the universities and private industry wherever possible. Watch the Senate Education hearing .

The same day, President Pitney also presented UA’s  to the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee. Noting the aging of the Ӱԭ workforce, Pitney discussed the university system’s role in preparing students to work in construction, administration & finance, aviation, fisheries & marine science, health, information technology, mining, oil & gas, and education. The committee heard about the successes of the Technical and Vocational Education Program (TVEP) in preparing students with career skills needed in Ӱԭ’s highest demand industries. Senators noted the continued need to expand capacity in the nursing program. President Pitney explained that the university is asking for health care program funding in the operating budget in order to stabilize and ultimately expand the program. At the end of the hearing, all committee members expressed their support for the university and its important role in improving both the lives of Ӱԭns and the economic outlook of the state. Watch the Senate Labor and Commerce hearing 

State of the State Address

On Tuesday evening the Legislature came together in a joint session of the House and Senate to welcome Governor Dunleavy in presenting the annual State of the State Address. , the Governor highlighted several Ӱԭns, including Olympian Lydia Jacoby and Ӱԭ’s own Miss America, Emma Broyles. He shared his vision for Ӱԭ’s future, including increased funding for the university and an expansion to the WWAMI program. He emphasized his proposed budget increases for the drone program and critical earth minerals research. The Governor also addressed bolstering public safety, renewing the trans-Ӱԭ natural gas pipeline, and creating a Food Security Task Force to examine self-reliance in local agriculture.

Budget Proceedings

The UA Government Relations team presented a university budget overview to the House Finance University budget subcommittee on Friday morning. The committee heard that the Governor’s Proposed FY23 university budget includes a slight increase of $4.1M or 1.5% from the FY22 budget. However, it is worth noting that this is less than the $8M increase that the Board of Regents requested. The proposed budget includes $22.8M in one-time FY23 discretionary federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for the UA Drone Program, and research into critical and rare earth minerals, as well as heavy oil recovery methods. The committee also learned about the university’s proposed capital requests, specifically the Ӱԭ Bartlett and Moore Hall Modernization and Renewal, the Student Information Technology System upgrades, and construction of new dockside infrastructure at the Seward Marine Center for the research vessel Sikuliaq. Members of the committee expressed interest in student enrollment numbers, middle college programs, and the funding mechanisms for the capital requests. You can watch the hearing.

Bills on the Move

, approving general obligation bonds for infrastructure projects, was heard in the Senate Transportation committee on Thursday. Representatives from the university discussed the proposed $18.7M Moore-Bartlett Halls building renovations. The committee held the bill for further review. Watch the hearing . A similar hearing will be held in House Finance for the House’s companion bill, , this afternoon. You can watch it .

, relating to adding a faculty member to the Board of Regents, passed out of the House Education committee on Wednesday. It has been referred to House State Affairs where it currently awaits scheduling. 

, establishing a statutory statewide middle college program, was heard in House State Affairs on Thursday. The committee held the bill for further review. A subsequent hearing will be held next Thursday, February 3, at 3:00pm.

, protecting the Higher Education Investment Fund, has been scheduled for a first hearing next Wednesday, February 2, at 3:30pm in House Education.

January 21, 2022

The 2nd Regular Session of the 32nd Legislature Convenes

The 2nd regular session of the 32nd Legislature began Tuesday, Jan. 18. However, even before the official “gavel-in,” legislators were holding committee hearings on hot button issues including the Capitol’s COVID-19 policies.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day was a particularly busy day in the capitol. The Joint Legislative Council Committee met and members voted to keep the Capitol Building open to the public while continuing to require masks and frequent testing for lawmakers and staff. 

For now, the general public is welcome in the building as long as they wear masks. Testing for the public is based on the honor system. This is something for student and alumni groups to keep in mind as they plan Juneau advocacy trips this year.    

Legislative Council also voted in favor of filing an amicus brief (“Friend of the Court”) in the recent lawsuit filed by four university students to restore funding to the Higher Education Investment Fund.  The amicus brief supports the students. The same afternoon the Joint Legislative Budget and Audit Committee met and approved $60M in FY22 supplemental federal receipt authority for the university relating to new federal contracts at Ӱԭ’s University Affiliated Research Center (UARC). This is great news for the university. 

The session officially kicked off Tuesday afternoon when the House and Senate gaveled in. In a speech from the dais, Speaker Louise Stutes requested a return to decorum in the House after a year filled with budget stand-offs and extended special sessions. Pre-filed legislation was then referred to committees for upcoming hearings. Notably:

  • by Rep. Wool (D-Fairbanks), would add a faculty member to the UA Board of Regents, and was referred to House Education where it was heard this morning.
  • by Rep. Josephson (D-Anchorage) would protect the Higher Education Investment Fund (HEIF) and students who rely on scholarships, needs based grants, and the WWAMI medical program. The bill would create subsidiaries under the Ӱԭ Student Loan Corporation to manage the Higher Education Investment Fund, effectively protecting the fund from annual sweeps into the Constitutional Budget reserve and keep the scholarships secure during annual legislative budget negotiations. HB 229 was referred to the House Education committee where it remains to be scheduled. 
  • by Rep. Wool would fully restore funds to sub accounts of the General Fund that were swept into the Constitutional Budget Reserve in FY21 and was referred to the House Finance Committee. It has not yet been scheduled. This bill is really about protecting the HEIF.

Thanks to Rep. Josephson and Rep. Wool for their leadership roles in protecting our student scholarship funding.

Budget Proceedings

Senate and House Finance committees began the week listening to revenue forecast from the Department of Revenue (DOR). The revenue forecast, published in fall of 2021, projects that Unrestricted General Fund revenue will be $5.7B in FY22 and $5.9B in FY23. Notably, oil prices have gone up since the revenue forecast was published. DOR currently projects FY22 oil prices at $80/barrel (as opposed to the $75 originally published) and $78 (as opposed to $71) in FY23. The variation amounts to an additional revenue of $281M in FY22 and $470M in FY23. 

UA in the Capitol

University representatives will be testifying in several meetings over the next week:

  • Monday, January 24: 
    • 9:00am
      • “Update from the University of Ӱԭ”
    • 1:30pm Senate Labor and Commerce: 
      • “Presentation on Workforce Development Programs”
  • Wednesday, January 26:
    • 8:00am
      • - “Add Faculty Member to University Board of Regents”
      • - “Education and Supplemental Loan Programs”
  • Thursday, January 27:
    • 3:00pm
      • Senate Bill 32 - “College Credit for High School Students”
  • Friday, January 28:
    • 9:00am
      • University budget overview

January 14, 2022

As the Legislature returns to the Capitol, the state budget and protecting the Higher Education Investment Fund remain university’s top legislative priorities

The second session of the 32nd legislature opens next Tuesday, January 18. Legislators and staff have begun to arrive in Juneau from districts across the state. In the last weeks before session begins, new pieces of legislation are being pre-filed for introduction. The to the public on Friday, Jan 7. Another handful was released today. 

Among the newly filed bills are several that relate to the university system. Of particular interest is , introduced by Representative Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage). HB 229 would allow the Ӱԭ Student Loan Corporation to create subsidiaries to manage the financing and facilitation of the Ӱԭ Performance Scholarship, the Ӱԭ Education Grant and the WWAMI medical scholarships. Rep. DzDz’s legislation is timely after challenging the “sweep” of the unspent funds of the Higher Education Investment Fund (HEIF) into the Constitutional Budget Reserve (CBR). The HEIF, currently valued at approximately $410 million, is the current source of funding for the Ӱԭ Performance Scholarship, Ӱԭ Education Grants and the WWAMI medical scholarships. Each year, roughly 5,400 students receive $15.1 million in financial aid from these programs. 

During the 2022 legislative session, legislators also will be reviewing the governor’s proposed FY23 budget. Notably, this year the governor added $26.8 million to the UA’s budget. The governor’s budget for the university includes a $4 million increase toward stabilizing state general fund operating support and $22.8 million in one-time federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for specific areas of investment that will contribute to the state’s economic recovery. These investment areas include $7.8 million for critical minerals and rare earth elements research, $5 million for heavy oil recovery method research, and $10 million for the drone program. The capital budget also includes $20 million for updated IT systems, funded with the state’s coronavirus capital projects fund. Additionally, the governor’s budget includes $94.4 million in federal budget authority for Ӱԭ's R/V Sikuliaq Seward Infrastructure project and a $300 million general obligation transportation and infrastructure bond that has $18.65 million for the University of Ӱԭ Fairbanks - Bartlett Hall and Moore Hall Modernization and Renewal project.

During the session, the university will continue to promote accessible higher education by raising its voice in UA’s best interests. Your voice is also important during this process. Please reach out to your state senators and representatives and share with them how the University of Ӱԭ is important to you. Senators and representatives’ contact information can be found here: .


For more information on state government relations, contact Director of State Relations Chad Hutchison, (cell: 907-378-3946, email: clhutchison@alaska.edu). For federal relations, contact Director of Federal Relations, John Latini (phone: 202-253-4691, email: jalatinin@alaska.edu). You can also follow the University of Ӱԭ Government Relations team on our .