A Few Tidbits from the Past Week

The Senate Finance chairmen have emphasized several times lately that they anticipate a healthy capital budget this year. Among the items they suggested may be considerd for increased funding are deferred maintenance and DEED items and energy projects in both urban and rural Alaska to decrease the cost of energy and increase dependability.

I've also got a new bill I'm following that could affect school districts. SB 100 would require employers who terminate some or all positions in PERS to pay termination costs, and the bill is retroactive. I think the intent is to make sure the PERS unfunded liability does not increase due to the actions of any one employer.

I've been in communication with Michael Lamb of the Fairbanks North Star Borough about the bill, and he wrote, "The whole district doesn’t have to withdraw to be impacted, a single position could cause an impact. If a smaller district only had one nurse, as a real example, and they had to cut that position, they’d be subject to a termination study. If they accepted some grant funds that they then hired some classroom aides, that weren’t certified TRS teachers, but simply PERS employees, when those aides went away because the grant money was gone then those salaries not being paid any longer could be subject to termination study impacts. Districts are not only TRS employers, they are also clearly PERS employers and there is no exception in the law for them. I think they simply do not understand the potential peril they are in. If a district never makes an adjustment to their employee structure then perhaps they’ll never be impacted, but if they do, they are not exempted." The bill is up for a hearing in the Senate Labor & Commerce Committee on Tuesday, March 29.

There was some discussion about education issues during the press conferences on Thursday, March 24, but it was just a recap of stuff that's happened in committee hearings. The big issue during the two press conferences, in my opinion, is the governor's proposal for cutting oil taxes. There seems to be mixed opinion on whether the governor's proposal will actually lead to any new development or not, with opinion leaning toward the side that there does not seem to be much guarantee of new development with the governor's plan. Considering the state would lose up to $2 billion in revenue annually, the governor's plan is causing concern for many people.

Also, in Senate Finance on Thursday, $380,000 in additional funding was added to Best Beginnings, so the total funding for that program is now at $980,000, which is what the program was funded at for FY11.