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From Surplus to Deficit and Back
Session recap underscores need for voter involvement
By AGC Legislative Affairs Committee and AGC Lobbyist Dianne Blumer
From Surplus to Deficit and Back
Session recap underscores need for voter involvement
By AGC Legislative Affairs Committee and AGC Lobbyist Dianne Blumer

s always, it was a real roller coaster for the last few days of the legislative session. At the time this article was written, we don’t know precisely how it all turned out and what actions the Governor took, if any. Here’s what we do know: in early May, the Senate received the operating budget from the House (HB281) and proceeded to incorporate their version of the Capital Budget and the Supplemental Budget into that bill, passing one of the largest budgets of all time back over to the House. The pressure on the House members was intense for several days, with some members who campaigned on paying a full Permanent Dividend Fund, or PFD, pushing to concur with the Senate’s version and others who knew paying a PFD coupled with a $1,300 energy relief payment for a total of $5,500 was not sustainable and could bring vast and looming impacts. It was stunning to watch the state’s fiscal status move from nearly a billion-dollar surplus to more than a billion-dollar deficit in less than an hour on the Senate floor.

Fortunately, the House did not concur, and a conference committee was appointed. In mid-May, the committee reached an agreement keeping in line with much of the Senate’s proposals and the Legislature settled on a combined energy relief/PFD payout at $3,200 per Alaskan resident. At the time this article was written, the budget was transmitted to the Governor, who is expected to sign it with some minor adjustments.

It is the last year of the 32nd Legislature, and upon adjournment, all bills that did not pass die in place. This results in a flurry of what is referred to as “Christmas treeing” activity in the final hours. This is when they insert amendments that are often germane to effect policy changes or sometimes roll a full bill in to another piece of legislation that has advanced further in the process and has a chance of making it through both bodies. This is a dangerous process and often results in unintended consequences.

Bills of interest that passed last minute or were rolled into other moving legislation were:

  • HB30, which relates to workers compensation death benefits and the payment of permanent and partial impairment, was rolled into HB131, which relates to the presumption of compensability for a disability resulting from certain cancers in firefighters. The combined bill passed both bodies.
  • HB402, relating to identification requirements for contractors and home inspectors, passed.
  • $1 million was allocated to the Department of Environmental Conservation to conduct a feasibility study on the effects if the State were to assume primacy of the Section 404 of the Clean Water Act from the Federal Government , regulating the disposal of dredged or fill material into US waters and wetlands.

Bills that were left behind:

  • HB132, relating to technical education and registered apprenticeships by Representative Zack Fields (Anchorage), which was originally supported by AGC but lost that support when questions arose surrounding the new policy of the Anchorage School Board to promote the requirement of project labor agreements.
  • HB104 originally would have increased the motor fuel tax from $0.08 to $0.16 and was supported by AGC. However, with the cost of fuel this bill did a complete reverse and became a “tax holiday” suspending even the $0.08 through June 2023, causing AGC to withdraw its support. AGC is pleased this bill did not pass in its amended form.
  • HB271 was designed to impose governance structures on the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority and mandate legal mechanisms for additional transparency and oversight. AGC is pleased this bill did not pass and that our advocacy efforts were recognized.
Election Season Arrives

As you have likely seen in the news, election season is upon us, which always brings change with it. This year will bring even more change than usual.

With fifty-nine of sixty legislative seats up for grabs and redistricting in play, the next legislature will be made up of many new faces. Plus, Alaskans will be tasked with deciding who will represent us in the US Senate, and who will fill the late Representative Don Young’s seat in Congress. We also face a gubernatorial election, and Alaska debuts the new, ranked-choice voting system this fall.

Taken together, Alaska voters have many serious decisions to make and lots to learn. AGC will do our part to help arm voters with good information, but we encourage members to start studying the issues now and getting familiar with ranked-choice voting. So much is at stake, and it will take all of us doing our part to engage and inform voters about candidates and issues. As always, AGC of Alaska’s Legislative Affairs Committee and staff will continue our advocacy efforts and membership communications. Construction is vital to Alaska and AGC’s voice is vital to creating the statewide support needed to maintain its vibrancy.

On that note, AGC has interviewed several of the congressional candidates and welcomes the opportunity to offer perspective on their views on a variety of efforts related to the construction industry. Reach out any time if you want to have that conversation.

Help Us Elect Pro-growth Candidates

One of the best ways to help elect candidates who support AGC’s mission is by supporting our Political Action Committee, or PAC. You can do that by purchasing PAC raffle tickets from any board member or by calling the AGC office. PAC raffle ticket sales help support candidates who support the construction industry in Alaska. As we have seen firsthand these last two legislative sessions, elections have consequences, and the results don’t always go our way. If we want the next two legislative sessions to be an improvement over the last two (and who wouldn’t?), now is the time to step up. Please support our PAC and, by extension, candidates who support the construction industry.