Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, speaks to the joint Soldotna and Kenai chambers of commerce at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, speaks to the joint Soldotna and Kenai chambers of commerce at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Carpenter gives wrap up on session as he nears end of House term

Carpenter is seeking election to state Senate District D

At a joint luncheon of the Soldotna and Kenai chambers of commerce on Wednesday, state Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, spoke about the recent conclusion of the legislative session — focusing on budget, education, energy, roads and safety.

The budget passed includes $12.3 billion in operating expenses and $3.6 billion in state spending on capital projects, he said, for a combined $15.9 billion. Funding aimed at the Kenai Peninsula includes $3.5 million in state money and another $66 million from federal programs.

The Alaska Permanent Fund dividend will be $1,355 and be supplemented by a $295 energy rebate for a $1,650 check. Carpenter said that’s money “that people will then spend in our local economy.”

Speaking of education, Carpenter referenced the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 140. The bill was a comprehensive education package that would have increased per-student state funding for K-12 schools by $174 million, among other things. Despite initially voting in favor of the bill, Carpenter did not vote to override the veto. He said he supported the veto because a “political arrangement” to package the increased funding with certain educational reforms fell apart— “we need to have better results tied to it.”

The bill passed included the funding, he said, but not the reforms.

A success, Carpenter said, was passage of legislation to continue correspondence funding after a judge declared the program unconstitutional in April. That funding will continue “into this next school year,” he said, but noted that’s a “stopgap measure” pending court rulings.

Carpenter said he hopes for increased development for liquefied natural gas, describing worries about a potential future where LNG is imported — expensively. He also spoke about slowdowns in construction, specifically concerning the expansion of the Kenai Spur Highway between Kenai and Soldotna. Ground “may” be broken on the Spur next year, he said — “it will not be this year.”

Finally, Carpenter turned to public safety, pointing to several bills passed that increased penalties for distribution of fentanyl, removing victim testimony requirements to grand juries, “strengthened” protections for victims of domestic violence and updated the definition of child pornography to child sex abuse material.

Carpenter said that this legislative session was his third, and his final in the House of Representatives, alluding to his campaign for Senate. He is challenging Sen. Jesse Bjorkman for the District D seat in the upcoming state election.

“These last two sessions have been an interesting learning experience,” he said. “I love every minute of it — except for the frustrating ones — even those, I’m going to learn from.”

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, speaks to the joint Soldotna and Kenai chambers of commerce at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, speaks to the joint Soldotna and Kenai chambers of commerce at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, May 22, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

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