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An update from the Alaska State Senate

The Legislature completed their work on the FY12 State Operating Budget. The negotiating process was long and grueling and compromises were made on both sides in the end.

There are a number of issues important to the Senate Bipartisan Working Group which includes savings, education, energy and public safety. These key provisions are reflected in the final numbers within HB 108: FY12 Operating Budget.

When our state treasury is flush, as it is now, it is very important to think about our future by depositing substantial funds into savings. This is accomplished in the bill with a deposit of $1 billion into our Statutory Budget Reserve account.

The rising cost of energy is of great concern to everybody. I was able to win a hard fought battle to deposit $400 million into the Power Cost Equalization Endowment Fund. Combine this deposit with the current balance of $322.5 million brings it to a total of $722.5 million, which will provide the Power Cost Equalization Program long-term sustainability. The Endowment will earn approximately $36 million annually, covering the annual cost of the program at $34 million, therefore, eliminating the need to subsidize the program with general funds. Energy costs impact everyone, including our local governments. I also was successful in gaining approval to distribute an additional $20 million to our local governments through the Community Revenue Sharing Program. This is one-time only funding, but I will continue to work on passage of SB 97 next session.

Education funding was contentious this session. We gave the House two different options to get more funding to our schools; resulting in one-time only funding of $20 million to be distributed through the K-12 Foundation Formula. In addition, I was able to maintain the following programs; $2 million to the Pre-K Pilot, $1.25 million for the Statewide Mentoring, $200,000 increase to the Best Beginnings, $3 million for the Alaska Advantage (University/needs based) and $6 million for the Alaska Performance Scholarships.

I do applaud the Governor in his commitment to increase public safety across our state. His budget proposal included 15 new VPSO positions and 3 new Trooper/VPSO over-site positions. All of these have been approved in HB 108. In addition, for the second year, we fully funded the Governor's Domestic Violence Initiative at $3 million.

Alaska Dispatch encourages a diversity of opinion and community perspectives. The opinions expressed herein are those of the contributor and are not necessarily endorsed or condoned by Alaska Dispatch. This story is posted with permission from Alaska Newspapers Inc., which publishes six weekly community newspapers, a statewide shopper, a statewide magazine and slate of special publications that supplement its products year-round.

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