Heading into the final month of 2008, I can’t help but reflect on the many changes that have occurred on the political landscape, nationally, and here in Alaska. With a new president and cabinet, a new U.S. senator for Alaska, and many new faces in national and state offices, there will be plenty of fresh perspectives as we work toward finding solutions to the many issues impacting our country, state and local communities.
As you may know, I have been elected by my colleagues to serve as the senate president for the 26th Alaska State Legislature. I am honored to serve as president, and am looking forward to working in this new capacity while continuing to ensure that the needs of our district are well represented in the legislative process. This position will also afford me the opportunity to join with Alaska’s Congressional delegation, the governor, the National Council of State Legislatures and senate presidents from around the country as we work toward economic recovery and work to make sure that states are not forgotten.
Already, NCSL has begun the process of outlining the concerns to address with Congress, including:
1. Do not cut federal funds for state and local highway projects for two years. (Explore doing the same for natural resources and other projects that have state/federal matches)
2. Provide new federal dollars for transportation infrastructure projects without match requirements.
3. Explore Medicaid match, and request additional Medicaid dollars.
4. Expand the federal definition of infrastructure to include possibilities such as federal electric grid, renewable energy projects, expanding broadband service, etc.
5. Explore the long neglected promise to match special education dollars at 40 percent federal level.
I welcome your input as we continue along in this process. Please contact me anytime.
2009 session on the horizon
The 26th Alaska State Legislature convenes its first session on Jan. 20, 2009. Again this year, we will be tasked with doing our work in 90 days. Among the major issues ahead of us are establishing a natural gas tax rate for the Alaska natural gas pipeline, addressing the state’s extremely high dropout rate, continue to look for solutions to energy costs and energy needs, and consideration of the state budget. Given the falling oil prices of late, we will likely be looking at trimmer operating and capital budgets when the governor releases these in December. With a national focus on so-called “pork” projects, we may see a decline in the amount of federal funding coming to Alaska as well, but will work with Congressman Young and Senators Murkowski and Begich to get our fair share.
On the plus side, the high oil prices in recent years have greatly benefited the state coffers. During this year’s session, we were able to forward fund education in next year’s budget, repaid the Constitutional Budget Reserve, and put $5 billion in savings, for a total of $8 billion into savings, so we are in good financial shape for the near future.
Familiar faces in the House
I am pleased to be rejoined in the Legislature by my House of Representatives counterparts Paul Seaton (R-Homer) and Alan Austerman (R-Kodiak). I have had the occasion to work with both Paul and Alan in the Legislature for several years and know they will work hard on your behalf.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank retiring Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux (R-Kodiak) and her staff for their efforts on your behalf in the Capitol and back in the district during the past four years. I wish them all the best in their future endeavors.
Boards and commissions
Congratulations to Homer’s Nina Allen on her recent appointment to the Alaska Mental Health Board. Ms. Allen will bring a wealth of experience in the field to this position.
(Openings on the 122 state boards and commissions occur throughout the year. You can find out more about these panels on the Internet at http://gov.state.ak.us/boards, or by phone at (907) 465-3500)
Here to help you
My Homer, Kodiak and Juneau Capitol Building offices will be open throughout the remainder of the Interim to help you with matters involving state government agencies.
You can contact my office in Homer at 235-0690, in Kodiak at 486-4925, or toll-free at1-800-821-4925. E-mail me anytime at: Senator_Gary_Stevens@legis.state.ak.us. My interim address is: Senator Gary Stevens, 112 Mill Bay Rd., Kodiak, AK 99615
Thank you for reading the Interim Report. I wish you a safe and happy holiday season.
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