Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 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 in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Wrapping up session with bills passed and a budget in the works

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Last week the Senate passed the State’s operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year. It’s a balanced and fiscally responsible budget that provides for necessary state services, leaves room to pay for pending legislation and the state’s capital budget, and doesn’t draw on savings or create a deficit. The proposed budget includes a $1,582 PFD check for Alaskans, $175 million in additional one-time funding for Alaska’s schools, and an increase in funds for snow removal from Southcentral roads, including those on the Kenai Peninsula.

This is a budget that lives within our means and is conservatively based on $78/bbl oil. This budget does not spend from savings and protects the Permanent Fund for future generations of Alaskans. It is shocking to me that throughout the budget debate in both bodies some so called conservatives are calling for taxes for the purposes of redistributing wealth in our state. I do not support this concept. While the day may come when even the most fiscally conservative may think it’s time to raise revenues to fund their priorities, we are nowhere close to needing to tax hard working Alaskan families.

The operating budget passing the Senate isn’t the final step of the process. While the proposals from the House and Senate are largely similar, there are differences for the two bodies to hammer out in conference committee.

I am thankful that three of my bills passed the Senate last week:

Senate Bill 174 would establish flags in state law to honor those that have made the greatest sacrifice, as well as the ongoing loss that their families must endure. This would allow, but not require, those flags to be flown at public buildings in Alaska.

Senate Bill 182 would extend the Big Game Commercial Services Board, which plays an important role in managing the activities of hunting guides and transporters to protect Alaska’s wildlife resources.

Senate Bill 234 would extend the Marijuana Control Board, which controls the cultivation, manufacture, and sale of marijuana in the state.

In these final weeks of the Legislative session, I am focused on issues that are important to the residents of the Kenai Peninsula. Along with shepherding my bills through the Legislature, I am working to give certainty to homeschool families who rely on allotments to provide educational opportunities to their students. Also, we are seeking to encourage more natural gas production in Cook Inlet by urging passage of royalty tax cuts for locally produced natural gas. In addition, I’m working hard to ensure that any laws passed regarding electricity will actually result in lower electric bills for HEA members.

I am honored to be your State Senator and I want to hear from you. You’re welcome to call my office at 907-283-7996 or email me at Sen.Jesse.Bjorkman@akleg.gov. I hope you’ll take the time to share your questions and ideas.

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