As you read this article there will be only one day of this legislative session left.
I have taken some "bad" press for my vote on HB 3 -- "Deposits to the Permanent Fund." Why is it when you mention the permanent fund, everyone thinks we are taking their check?
We are not taking you permanent fund dividend check with House Bill 3.
The Constitutional Budget Reserve (CBR) is a pot of money that can only be touched with a three-quarters vote in both Houses. While at its high of close to $7 billion, the fund has dwindled to approximately $2.3 billion. The Legislature has actively pursued budget cuts over the last five years, but has had to rely on dipping into the CBR to balance the budget. The savings account will be gone in three years, if we keep balancing the budget from it.
HB 3 rolls back the provision of placing an additional 25 percent of royalty monies into the Earnings Reserve Account (ERA). It will provide the general fund with an additional $26 million.
While this is of some help, we will still fall short of the $600 to $800 million needed to balance the budget annually. If the Legislature had not put the extra 25 percent into the corpus of the fund annually when they did and had spent it in some other manner, last year's dividend would have been $693. Former legislators need to be credited with that accomplishment.
Unfortunately oil prices, production and royalties are not what they were and we are in need of "new" revenue sources. Also the effect of the stock market is going to lower your permanent fund dividend check due to recent market fluctuation.
It is possible that money will be needed next year from the ERA to cover dividends and inflation proof, according to Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. accounting!
I have been working with many legislators who have been working with others to come up with a fiscal plan to put forward in 2002. The focus of the group is to manage the state in a fiscally responsible manner, look at government efficiencies and save your dividend.
When the Legislature adjourns Tuesday, it is the goal of this group to come home, meet with our constituents, discuss the government process and possible cuts and listen to suggestions. Every organization that is funded with state dollars can justify its program. It is not easy, and I welcome any suggestions from my district.
During this legislative session, K-12 education has been a priority. There is legislation to increase the foundation formula program per student and the "exit" exam has been on the front burner since we started.
The governor's office was interested in cruise ship discharges, and last week the House passed landmark environmental legislation to ensure that cruise ships operate in Alaska waters under a comprehensive new wastewater monitoring program that will give the state the strictest discharge standards in the nation.
I appreciate the opportunity to represent you and I appreciate your input. During the interim, my office will be located in the 4-D Building located 35477 Spur Highway -- Suite 101. The telephone number is 260-5236. Please stop by or call whenever you have an issue to discuss.
Rep. Ken Lancaster is a first-term Republican legislator from District 8, which includes the Soldotna-Seward area.
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