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Revenue-sharing cut, Medicaid reform measures passed by Alaska lawmakers

  • Author: ADN staff, wire reports
  • Updated: May 17, 2016
  • Published April 17, 2016

JUNEAU -- The Alaska Legislature passed several noteworthy bills on Sunday, the final scheduled day of the legislative session. Among them:

Revenue sharing cut

The Alaska House voted Sunday to cut the program that sends local communities a share of state cash.

Senate Bill 210 restructures the way the funds are distributed. The bill caps the total amount given each year at $30 million. It also fixes the base of the distributions at $300,000, effectively removing population from the funding equation.

The most recent version of the state revenue sharing program was established in 2008, when oil prices were high and the state was flush with cash. The idea was that when oil revenues were booming, the wealth would be shared with communities, Sen. Anna McKinnon, R-Anchorage, said in her sponsor statement. Now the state's confronting a massive fiscal gap.

Anchorage, the state's largest city, will see the most dramatic cut as a result of the legislation.

The city would have received $14.5 million in state funding. Under the new formula, state revenue sharing money to Anchorage drops to $4.5 million, bill documents show.

The bill is now headed to Gov. Bill Walker's desk, with the Senate giving its approval on Wednesday.

-- Devin Kelly

Medicaid reform

A bill aimed at curbing and containing costs within Alaska's Medicaid program passed the Legislature Sunday.

It was one of the major reform bills targeted by legislators this session. Others, aimed at oil and gas tax credits and the criminal justice system, were pending.

The sprawling bill includes provisions geared toward ferreting out fraud and waste and bringing down state costs. Among other things, it calls for a primary care case management system to increase use of appropriate primary and preventative care and decrease unnecessary use of specialty care and emergency services.

In a release, Sen. Pete Kelly says the bill he sponsored isn't about restricting access to patients who need care but reforming a broken system and offering better care at a lower cost.

The Senate agreed to House changes Sunday.

-- Associated Press

Domestic abuse protection for pets

A bill co-sponsored by the late Democratic Rep. Max Gruenberg, now headed to Gov. Bill Walker's desk, gives legal protections for pets caught up in messy divorces and domestic violence situations.

The bill spells out a definition for pet abuse, lays out requirements for owners to pay for the cost of care for seized animals and includes pets in domestic violence protection orders.

The bill was the final piece of legislation sponsored by Gruenberg, who died in February.

As his widow sat in the gallery watching, the bill cleared its final hurdle with a unanimous vote in the Senate on Sunday.

-- Associated Press

Tax credit for Kenai fertilizer plant

The Alaska Senate voted Sunday to offer a tax credit to Agrium, designed to lure it back to its closed plant on the Kenai Peninsula.

The bill was championed by Nikiski Republican Rep. Mike Chenault. The closed fertilizer plant is located in his district.

It establishes a credit equal to the amount of royalty paid on natural gas produced from state leases for companies that produce ammonia and urea. Agrium's plant, which closed in 2007, has been the only plant of that kind in the state.

The Department of Revenue estimates the credit could cause the state to forgo revenue up to nearly $15 million annually. The credit sunsets in 2026.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski unsuccessfully attempted to add language capping the amount of credit the company could take and allow the Kenai Peninsula Borough to offer property tax credits to the company.

-- Associated Press