HOUSE PASSES TAXES, FUND TAP:
On Thursday the House passed three revenue measures: HB 225, an increase in excise taxes on alcohol (not the originally proposed increase of a "dime a drink," but roughly seven cents a drink); HB 303, an individual income tax; and HB 304, which creates new special accounts for education, and infrastructure and economic development, and funds these with 2.5 percent of the Permanent Fund balance annually. Another 2.5 percent will go to dividends. To read the text of these measures go to www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/
These three bills now move to the Senate for consideration. There is insufficient support in the Senate to pass either the income tax or the tap on the Permanent Fund this year.
LEGISLATION OF NOTE:
On Monday, by an 18-1 vote, the Senate passed HJR 30, urging Congress to pass a Constitutional amendment banning desecration of the American flag. HB 298, companion bill to my SB 209, passed the Senate Wednesday 18-0. The bill improves the leasing process on Alaska Railroad lands and will stimulate economic development along the railroad. It now goes to the Governor for his signature. My SB 153, which streamlines the State underground storage tank program, moved from House Finance Thursday and awaits a Monday House floor vote.
STATE BUDGET -- SEE FOR YOURSELF:
There has been plenty of reporting and commentary on the State budget, but to see for yourself what has been passed by the Senate and House, as well as the Governorís proposals, go to www.legfin.state.ak.us/
BUDGET WORK CONTINUES:
The conference committee on the Operating Budget began its work this week and on Thursday was granted limited powers of free conference. It is working out differences between the Senate and House versions of the budget. The Senate will begin hearings and markup of the Capital Budget this weekend.
WHAT DO YOU KNOW?
Other than the University of Alaska, what agency in the executive branch of state government is required to exist by our Constitution?
Hint: It used to be a state department and is now a division.
WHAT WE THOUGHT WE KNEW -- ERRATUM:
One observant reader pointed out that last week's answer to "What do you know?" was inaccurate. Chugach State Park is not the largest in Alaska. Wood-Tikchik in western Alaska is the largest. I regret the error, but was lost in contemplation of the beauty of the large park next to Alaska's largest city.
NATIONAL DAY OF PRAYER:
On Thursday I participated in the annual National Day of Prayer event on the Capitol steps, and gave the closing remarks and prayer. I stressed that we take time to pray with each other about our problems, rather than just talk about them. We should remember to pray for our leaders, communities, families and friends.
Formerly the Department of Community and Regional Affairs and before that the Local Affairs Agency, this agency required by Article X, Section 14 of the Constitution is now the Division of Community and Regional Affairs. The Constitution's authors believed it important to foster strong local government.
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