Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Tax relief efforts move forward

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

This week, I am thankful that my bills to reduce taxes on farmers and ban real estate transfer taxes are moving through the Legislature. Also, there is an upcoming town hall dealing specifically with DOT issues on April 20 that you may want to attend if you are interested in local Highway Projects, brine usage, and winter maintenance.

I believe it’s wrong to levy taxes on Alaskans simply because they have bought a home or property. Senate Bill 179, my bill to prohibit transfer taxes on the sale of real property, passed the Senate this week and now moves to the House for consideration.

Transfer taxes increase the overall cost of purchasing homes. They can discourage new construction, as adding transfer taxes to the already high cost of building materials puts homes out of the financial reach of many buyers. Low-income buyers, young families who need room to grow, and seniors who want to down-size and benefit from the equity they have built over the years are all adversely affected when transfer taxes are imposed. Alaska is already struggling with a worker shortage due in part to the high cost of housing and adding transfer taxes will only make things worse.

The Legislature is working on policies to improve the electric transmission system that serves the Railbelt. SB 257 and 217 would increase transmission capacity and restructure the fees electric utilities pay when transferring electrons from one region to another. The goal of the bills is to provide low-cost, reliable energy into the future, and I’m working to ensure that the rates Kenai Peninsula residents pay are as low as possible.

Several of my bills had hearings this week including:

SB 181 Child Placement; Diligent Search had its first hearing in the Senate Finance Committee. Members heard testimony from Alaska and national experts on the psychological impact it has on a child when they are moved from one home to another. The bill would provide better outcomes for foster kids by mandating OCS to undertake a diligent search for family placements within 30 days and provide judges with more latitude to make placement decisions in kids’ best interest.

SB 161 Tax Exemption for Farm Use Land was heard twice in the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee. SB 161 would encourage in-state food production by improving the program that provides farmers with property tax breaks.

SB 174 Honor & Remember/Honor & Sacrifice Flags was heard in the Senate Community and Regional Affairs Committee, and honors those who have fallen in the line of duty serving in the U.S. armed forces or as first responders.

I’m holding a town hall meeting on April 20 with the Alaska Department of Transportation to provide updates on regional construction projects, report on the reduced use of road brine this past winter, and get your feedback on winter maintenance. The meeting is at the Kenai Borough Assembly Chambers at 144 North Binkley Street in Soldotna from noon to 3 p.m.

Please call my office at 907-283-7996 or email me at Sen.Jesse.Bjorkman@akleg.gov to share your questions and ideas. We’re always happy to help.

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