A. BUDGET: Probably the biggest issue facing the Legislature is the state financial crisis. The HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE has submitted a bill calling for an income tax and a refiguring of the Permanent Fund which would save the dividend and allow for budget spending of some of the earnings while placing some of those earning back into the principle so that the Fund will continue to grow. The bill is HB 115, and information on the bill follows.
HB 115: INCOME TAX; PFD CREDIT; PERM FUND INCOME. Sponsor: House Finance
“An Act relating to the permanent fund dividend; relating to the appropriation of certain amounts of the earnings reserve account; relating to the taxation of income of individuals; relating to a payment against the individual income tax from the permanent fund dividend disbursement; repealing tax credits applied against the tax on individuals under the Alaska Net Income Tax Act; and providing for an effective date.”
Four hearings have been scheduled this week in the House FIN. Public testimony is allowed only in the fourth hearing on Friday, 1;30 pm House Finance 519. However, all hearings are teleconferenced, meaning that they are viewable from BASIS. The full week of scheduled hearings for HB 115 follows:
Feb. 13, Monday 1:30 PM (H)Finance at House Finance 519
Feb 14, Tuesday 1:30 PM (H)Finance at House Finance519
Feb 15, Wednesday 1:30PM (H)Finance at House Finance519 Presentation Modeling by David Teal, Director This would be good to hear if you can get connected via teleconference.
Feb 17, Friday 1:30 PM(H)Finance at House Finance519–Statewide Public Testimony–2 min. limit
As the Empire article below suggests, there is pressure from the Anchorage area to go with a sales tax rather than an income tax. That produces problems for those municipalities who already have sales taxes; Anchorage does not currently levy a sales tax. A few weeks ago, the Juneau League assisted with an Alaska Common Ground presentation that included state budget experts and Legislators from both parties. While both parties are in agreement that something must be done, several were not enthused about an income tax. Senator Meyer suggested that his constituents preferred a sales tax as they do not currently pay one; he did admit that that might be a problem for some municipalities. Senator Meyer’s Senate Majority wants to cut $750 million more from the budget while he was reminded that the budget has already been cut $3 billion over the last few years. In addition, the Senate Majority completed a poll recently and found that while 54.6% strongly or somewhat strongly supported an income tax, 57.2% strongly or somewhat strongly supported a statewide sales tax. When asked which was prefered as a revenue source, the choices–sales tax, income tax, or PFD Earnings–sales tax had a 3.6% lead over income tax, and both tax sources were 6-9% ahead of PFD Earnings. However, a sales tax would be less progressive than an income tax. You can see the results at the links below as well as read the Empire article.
**Senate Majority Poll Results from January
Web presentation: <https://www.alaskasenate.org/polling>
PDF Presentation:< https://www.alaskasenate.org/pollpdf>
**Juneau Empire article on HB 115: <http://juneauempire.com/state/2017-02-10/house-s-majority-
B. The two bills mentioned in Action Alert #1 have moved as related below.
HB 44: Sponsors: Reps. GRENN, LeDoux, Kawasaki, Tuck, Stutes, Spohnholz, Parish, Fansler, Tarr, Drummond, Gara, Ortiz Most Recent Version of Bill: http://www.legis.state.ak.us/PDF/30/Bills/HB0044C.PDF
“An Act requiring a legislator to abstain from taking or withholding official action or exerting official influence that could benefit or harm an immediate family member or certain employers; requiring a legislator to request to be excused from voting in an instance where the legislator may have a financial conflict of interest; and providing for an effective date.”
STATUS: The bill was passed out of House JUD to House State Affairs(STA). A hearing will be held in STA on Saturday, Feb. 18, 11 am, Gruenberg 120, teleconferenced. There may be amendments to the bill at this point, possibly concerning the definition of “immediate family” as well as the majority vote to abstain; some members of JUD proposed a 3/4 vote to abstain, leaving the Senate needing a handful of votes to demand a vote from the conflicted Legislator. The amendment for the 3/4 vote was voted down in JUD. This bill also requires a change to the Uniform Code, changes which are represented in HCR 1, which was also passed out of JUD.
ACTION: If you have not written an email of support and you wish to see a better handling of conflicts of interest in the Legislature, you may want to contact Rep. Grenn at Representative.Jason.Grenn@akleg, the bill’s main sponsor or your own Representative from your district. Check the other sponsors above to see if your Rep. has signed on, and if not, write to your Rep. anyway. Remember currently it takes a unanimous vote to abstain if a conflict is present; this means one Legislator can object and that is the end of abstention; the majority of states require a vote to let the conflicted legislator vote, not abstain.
HB 31: SEXUAL ASSAULT EXAMINATION KITS. Sponsors: TARR, Gara, Tuck, LeDoux
“An Act requiring the Department of Public Safety to develop a tracking system and collection and processing protocol for sexual assault examination kits; requiring law enforcement agencies to send sexual assault examination kits for testing within 18 months after collection; requiring an inventory and reports on untested sexual assault examination kits; and providing for an effective date.” Bill may be found here: http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Bill/Detail/30?Root=HB%20%2031#tab1_4
STATUS: HB 31 passed out of House STA and is now in FIN. No hearings scheduled yet in FIN.
ACTION: If you have not emailed in support of this bill, you might do so now. You can send a note to the bill sponsors above, or one to your own Representatives Both of these bills will need to pass the Senate. So you may be writing again to your Senator later in the session.