2013 Legislative Accomplishments
Resources and Energy
Expanding our natural resource economy means greater economic growth and a brighter future for Alaskans. This legislative session was pivotal for unlocking our state’s oil and gas resources for Alaskans’ benefit and providing more affordable energy for homes and businesses. Governor Parnell proposed, and the Legislature approved, fully funding the Power Cost Equalization Program, weatherization, heating assistance, and renewable energy projects.
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Alaska's Oil Production Comeback
To ensure Alaskans have a prosperous future full of opportunity, Governor Parnell worked to increase oil production and attract new investment to the North Slope. After years of thoughtful analysis and debate, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 21, Governor Parnell’s legislation to reform Alaska’s oil tax structure. Alaskans will now benefit from a tax system that meets Governor Parnell’s four guiding principles:
- Fair to Alaskans
- Encourages new production
- Simple so that it restores balance to the system
- Competitive tax system that is durable
Alaska now has a competitive tax regime that will allow us to compete with other oil-producing regions around the world for investment dollars. The Alaska oil comeback starts now. Click here for more information.
To further increase Alaskans’ say over their land and water resources, Governor Parnell submitted Senate Bill 27, which authorizes the State of Alaska to assume primacy of dredge and fill activities. The Legislature passed this legislation which will ensure Alaskans’ voices are heard and responsible resource development is not held up due to an expensive and time-consuming federal permitting process. The federal Clean Water Act allows states to seek and assume primacy over certain permitting activities. Click here for more information.
Governor Parnell continued with his commitment to an efficient and streamlined State permitting process. The Legislature passed House Bill 129, the Governor’s legislation authorizing Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources to consolidate exploration and development approvals, while still protecting the environment and providing for public participation. This will create efficiencies by streamlining the oil and gas exploration and development approval process.
Interior Energy Plan
To address skyrocketing energy costs in Interior and rural Alaska, Governor Parnell proposed an Interior Energy Plan. This session, the Legislature passed Senate Bill 23, the Governor’s legislation to give the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority (AIDEA) the ability to provide up to $275 million in financing for a natural gas liquefaction plant and a liquefied natural gas (LNG) distribution system within the Fairbanks North Star Borough. A North Slope LNG plant has the potential to deliver gas via truck to Fairbanks and beyond while we work to build an Interior gas distribution system for when an Alaska gasline is built. Click here for more information.
As the State continues to work to build an instate natural gasline pipeline, the Legislature passed House Bill 4, authorizing the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC) to develop, finance, and operate a pipeline to deliver natural gas from the North Slope to Fairbanks and Southcentral Alaska. This significant legislation gives AGDC the ability to expand natural gas options for communities throughout Alaska while ensuring Alaskans benefit from Alaska’s gas. Click here for more information.
Susitna-Watana Hydro Project moves forward
Funding in the Capital Budget ($95.2 million) continues work on the largest hydroelectric endeavor in America today, the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project. This sustainable energy project, managed by the Alaska Energy Authority, will provide a long-term and stable power source for generations of Alaskans. Funding in the Capital Budget continues the field work in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission licensing process. Click here for more information.
Fiscal Restraint and Individual Tax Relief
This session, Governor Parnell focused on fiscal restraint and responsible budgeting while working to increase oil production. Governor Parnell proposed a spending cap that reduces spending by over $1 billion, compared to the current year. Taking it a step further, the Governor proposed a five-year plan that will help the State meet its obligations, while managing our reserve funds wisely.
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Recognizing the need to reduce State government spending and limit the growth of government, Governor Parnell worked with legislative leadership to rein in spending. The Governor proposed a spending cap of $6.8 billion for 2014, reflecting a more than 14 percent decrease or $1.1 billion less in general fund spending compared to last year. The Legislature met that spending cap.
The Governor’s five-year fiscal plan is designed to manage Alaska’s reserve funds wisely and limit government spending.
With budget discipline and carefully managing the use of the budget reserve funds, Alaska will be able to provide essential public services, including education, public safety, and transportation.
Governor Parnell is committed to greater fiscal responsibility in State spending over the next five years. Less government spending and more private sector investment will drive economic growth and opportunity for Alaskans.
Lower Taxes for Alaskans
Governor Parnell continued his work to lower Alaskans’ tax burden. He welcomed passage of his legislation to allow for the suspension of automatic payroll tax increases when the Unemployment Insurance (UI) Trust Fund is deemed solvent. Currently, the law requires tax collections, including increases, from employers and employees, even if the UI Trust Fund is solvent. With this legislation, Alaska is leading the way in ensuring its workers and employees are not overtaxed.
Alaska today spends more on education than at any time in our state history. Our goal is bold and our commitment unwavering: We can achieve a 90 percent high school graduation rate in Alaska. We will do so by creating incentives for students and teachers, implementing higher standards and accountability, improving education delivery, eliminating outdated testing, and ensuring students across Alaska have the skills and knowledge they need to succeed.
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Alaska Performance Scholarship
Since the Alaska Performance Scholarship was created two years ago, 4,612 students have earned the opportunity to advance their education. This year $8 million was appropriated for the Alaska Performance Scholarship.
This year’s funding for education adds $46 million for increased energy costs and safety and security upgrades for schools, as well as $12.1 million in education formula spending.
K-12 Public Education Funding and Pupil Transportation include:
- Full funding for 2014 ($1.2 billion) for school funding and pupil transportation
- Forward funding for 2015 ($1.2 billion)
- Energy relief ($25 million)
- Safety and security grants ($21 million)
- Pupil transportation for 2014 ($74.9 million)
- School districts Teacher Retirement System contributions (PERS and TRS) ($343.5 million)
School Construction and Major Maintenance
Continuing our strong commitment to education in rural Alaska, construction moved forward for schools in Nightmute, Quinahagak, and Kwethluk. ($71.2 million)
Thirteen schools across Alaska benefited from $22.9 million appropriated for major maintenance funding.
Help for Students and Teachers
Alaska Learning Network – courses aligned with Alaska State standards and available at no charge for use by any Alaska teacher. This includes dozens of courses for students taught by highly qualified, Alaska-certified educators.
Live Homework Help – K-12 online tutors, 1 p.m. to midnight, seven days a week. In 2012, Alaska students booked 18,000 sessions with these tutors. Service is available throughout the state and can be accessed at schools, public libraries, homes, and via mobile devices.
OWL – Online With Libraries Program, promoting more digital literacy, public computing centers, and video-web conferencing capabilities.
Broadband support for libraries to open the doors to learning for communities off the road system.
Video instruction training for educators.
Community-to-community video conferencing for cultural and civic uses.
Alaska is tackling its toughest issues – domestic violence, sexual assault, and child sexual abuse. We continue to work to better protect victims and strengthen justice by increasing the penalties for perpetrators. We will not rest until Alaskans are safe in their homes and communities.
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Crime Bill Gets Tough on Offenders
Governor Parnell continues to work tirelessly to improve the safety of Alaskans by providing stronger protections for those impacted by domestic violence, sexual assault, and trafficking. The Legislature passed Senate Bill 22, the Governor’s comprehensive crime bill to better protect children and victims of sex trafficking and domestic violence. Several important changes relate to sex offenders, human trafficking, sex trafficking, exploitation of minors, and sexual assault by probation or parole officers, and staff of juvenile detention or treatment facilities. SB 22 also adds protections for victims and survivors and strengthens investigative tools to track down offenders and prosecute them. The law shielding rape victims is reinforced, and the State Office of Children’s Services is no longer mandated to reunify children with a parent or guardian who has committed abuse against a child or is a registered sex offender.
Village Public Safety Officers
This session, Governor Parnell continued his commitment to justice in Alaska’s rural communities by adding five Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) positions, raising the total to 121. Governor Parnell’s vow is to provide a VPSO to every community that wants one, as law enforcement presence is one of the best prevention strategies.
Governor Parnell continues to be committed to ensuring the State Troopers have the necessary tools to carry out their mission. The State Troopers will see an increase of 16 new trooper positions, the most significant increase in years. Two of these positions are for a new trooper post in Hooper Bay, one is for VPSO support, and 13 are for Mat-Su, Fairbanks, and Kenai.
Transportation and Infrastructure
Governor Parnell championed over $1 billion in transportation and infrastructure projects this session. Because access to Alaska’s vast resources will drive economic growth, the Roads to Resources initiative continues to be a primary focus of the Parnell Administration.
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- More than $956 million in statewide highway and aviation projects
- $17.5 million for Roads to Resources, including:
- $8.5 million for road to Ambler Mining District
- $7 million for Dalton Highway
- $10 million for Juneau access
Our military service members and their families are the pride of Alaska. Governor Parnell continuously looks for every opportunity to make this the best state for active duty personnel as well as veterans.
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Vietnam Veterans Day
Governor Parnell was honored to sign House Bill 67 into law this year. Sponsored by Representative Steve Thompson, and championed by former Representative Bill Thomas, the bill establishes March 29th of each year as Vietnam Veterans Day in honor of those who served our nation during the Vietnam War. To the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who served during that time: Thank you, and welcome home.
Interior Alaska Veterans Cemetery
Governor Parnell secured $2 million for the Interior Alaska Veterans Cemetery. The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs is working to secure a parcel of land in Fairbanks to build a veterans cemetery. Alaska currently has a veterans cemetery in Sitka and on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.
Alaska Military Youth Academy
Governor Parnell supported legislation changing the funding formula to improve services available to at-risk youth and dropouts at the Alaska Military Youth Academy. By changing the outdated formula, the Alaska Military Youth Academy can achieve a higher level of success. It will set an even greater number of high school dropouts back on a productive path and provide the opportunity for a rewarding future. House Bill 180, with the hard work of Senator Cathy Giessel and Representative Tammie Wilson, passed the Legislature in less than four weeks.
Training and Transitions
Eliminating the military's exposure to frivolous lawsuits regarding military munitions training, Governor Parnell signed House Bill 36, championed by Representative Tammie Wilson. This legislation clarifies the Alaska Clean Water Act as it pertains to ammunition discharges on Alaska’s military installations.
Governor Parnell supported House Bill 84 championed by Representative Dan Saddler, which enables the transfer of training credits and credentials, such as commercial drivers licenses, of military members to civilian use.