Credit bonding bill passes; Olson complaint dismissed; gov OKs education funding
JUNEAU (AP) — The Alaska House has passed legislation to allow for bonding to pay the state's remaining oil and gas tax credit obligations.
Gov. Bill Walker's bill would create a new bond corporation authorized to sell up to $1 billion in bonds to pay off outstanding credits.
It passed the House 23-15, and next goes to the Senate.
Supporters saw it as a way to honor the state's obligation. Critics cast it as risky.
There were legal questions raised with the bill, but Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth said she saw no constitutional problems.
“We're making good on the state’s promise to pay tax credits to independent explorers in exchange for their investment. Not only does this save the State of Alaska money, it also gives companies cash to spend now that prices are trending upward, something that will help put Alaskans to work,” Gov. Bill Walker said in a statement from his office. “I thank the members of the House Minority whose votes made this possible.”
In a legal opinion, she said the Legislature retains authority to decide whether to appropriate money toward paying debt service on the bonds.
Lawmakers last year voted to end the credit program geared toward small producers and developers, saying it had become unaffordable.
“At a time of fiscal challenge, in a state that largely depends on oil revenue, now is the time for innovative solutions to get these credits off the books, stimulate our economy, and allow projects that generate revenue to proceed,” said Rep. Jason Grenn, I-Anchorage. “H.B. 331 accomplishes all of this, all at no additional cost to the state. I am proud to be a part of this effort, and thank the governor and his administration for developing a responsible, win-win plan forward for Alaska.”
Ethics panel dismisses complaint over lawmaker moving costs
JUNEAU (AP) — A legislative ethics committee has dismissed a complaint against an Alaska lawmaker over his "aggressive use" of the Legislature's moving policy.
The committee found Democratic Sen. Donny Olson of Golovin did not violate ethics law because the legislative moving policy in effect at the time did not clearly prohibit him from shipping to Juneau in 2015 and 2016 items including a washer and dryer, yard tools, air compressors and a large desk.
But the committee found Olson's use of state funds to move such items was contrary to the spirit of the moving policy and resulted in a "very strong appearance of impropriety."
The policy has since been changed.
Olson, who lives in a remote, northwest Alaska community, says he appreciates the committee's decision and will look for future savings.
"I serve the largest state senate district in the nation. My family and I live in one of the most remote villages in the state. It is not road accessible,” Olson said in a statement from his office. It is approximately 1,000 miles "as the crow flies" from Juneau. In addition to myself and my wife, my family includes six children, two of which are newborns. These factors contribute to high relocation costs.
"My wife and I will continue to work with the Legislative Affairs Agency to continue to be in compliance and also find ways to find cost efficiencies to save the state money."
Walker signs two-year education funding bill
Gov. Bill Walker signed House Bill 287 into law at Harborview Elementary School Thursday in Juneau, joined by Democrat, Republican and Independent members of the House and Senate.
The bill boosts support for K-12 education by $30 million in the 2020 school year, if lawmakers approve a structured draw from the Permanent Fund earnings reserve to help pay for government.
A conference committee for Senate Bill 26, which would draw on the Fund, was released Wednesday.
The Governor released the following statement on the bill:
“The diverse group of policymakers that threw support behind this legislation represent our values as Alaskans. We must guarantee to all students, parents, and teachers that their schools will have the resources to provide high-quality education year in and year out for Alaska’s students. This is something we can come together on. We’re going to keep working together on this, and other key issues as we near the end of the legislative session.”