December 6, 2022

Alaska Senate taking up budget that includes $1,300 energy relief checks

Alaska’s Senate Finance Committee will discuss a $7.7 billion budget approved by the House that includes a $1,250 payment to Alaska residents from the Permanent Dividend Fund and a $1,300 energy relief check.

The proposed spending plan approved is $2.7 billion more than last year’s plan, said Joe Plesha, communications director for the Alaska House Coalition.

Lawmakers are setting aside $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2022 and $657 million in fiscal year 2023, a total of $2.2 billion, to help the state prepare for a decline in oil revenue, according to a news release from the Alaska House Coalition.

“The Alaska Marine Highway System is fully funded, which includes $82 million in federal money that will free up state funding towards the creation of a marine highway endowment,” House Speaker Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak said. “Fifty-seven million is being added to our K-12 system, while education is being forward funded to give our schools certainty as they create their budgets next year.”

Education spending includes $1.2 billion that “will prevent teachers from receiving pink slips and provide certainty to Alaskan families and educators that classes will start on time, with adequate funding,” coalition members said in the news release.

The proposed budget also included $2.5 million in pre-K funding for each of the next two years.

An additional $350 million would be used to replenish the Higher Education Investment Fund, which provides scholarships and need-based assistance for Alaska students.

The budget also set aside $60 million to pay for oil-and-gas tax credits that were not funded in fiscal year 2022. This year, lawmakers have designated $349 million for credits, according to the news release.

“Paying our oil and gas tax credits incentivizes exploration in our resource-rich state, and funding the fight against federal overreach will help protect our resources for future generations,” said Rep. Kelly Merrick, R-Eagle River. “Even with the increase in oil revenue, we’ve kept the state’s operation increases modest.”

Also approved was $1.5 million for Public Broadcasting. The funds would be used to provide grants to rural radio stations that serve $20,000 people or fewer.

Rising oil prices have led to an influx of cash to the state. Revenue figures released last month projected a $3.4 billion surplus because of high oil prices that make up more than 50% of the state’s Unrestricted General Fund (UFG) in the current fiscal year and for fiscal year 2023.

This article was originally posted on Alaska Senate taking up budget that includes $1,300 energy relief checks

Sydney Boles