• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
3m 13s

House passes education spending bill after marathon session

By Rhonda McBride 5:35 AM April 8, 2014
JUNEAU –

Lawmakers started at 5 p.m. Monday and voted just before midnight: That’s how long it took to pass House Bill 278, the governor’s omnibus education bill.

The vote was 29-11, largely along party lines.

In his State of the State speech, Gov. Sean Parnell said he wanted 2014 to be remembered as the “education session.” But was Monday’s marathon, seven-hour House floor debate what he had in mind?

HB 278 was a stuffed suitcase to begin with; loaded with a number of education reforms such as money for charter schools, vocational and technical programs

Then the House Finance Committee added more features to HB 278, including a $300 increase in the base student allocation (BSA) to be spread out over three years. The BSA is one of the components the state uses to decide how much to spend per student

Democrats attempted to boost the BSA to $400 for next year to avoid what they claim will be drastic layoffs of teachers and support staff.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘Am I going to be able to raise my child in this state that I love?’” said Rep. Les Gara, an Anchorage Democrat. “Not only are we going to lose students who can be our next workers, our next businessmen, our next entrepreneurs, we’re going to lose the parents too.”

Rep. Steve Thompson, a Fairbanks Republican, cautioned lawmakers about the need to strike a balance between spending and saving.

“We’re struggling to try to get control of our budget. That savings is going to run out, and then there’s going to be a reckoning,” Thompson said. “What do we do then? It’s going to hurt schools because we won’t have any more money.”

The amendment to raise the BSA beyond what was in the bill was defeated.

There was one controversial amendment that passed. It stripped a provision to pay down the state’s debt to the teachers’ retirement system by making payments over a longer time frame. Supporters dubbed it the “pay as you go” plan.

The governor had asked the House to drop the provision because he wants to address both the teacher and public employee retirement systems at the same time by using $3 billion in budget reserves to reduce the debt, while at the same time lowering the annual payments.

“The pay-as-you-go system impacts the amount of liability on the state’s balance sheet and increases or extends the liability out to 2073,” said Rep. Cathy Munoz, a Juneau Republican.

She said the governor’s plan only has a 25-year payoff. Munoz also noted that a financial consultant said the “pay as you go” plan might wind up costing the state an extra $15 billion.

Rep. Tammie Wilson, a Fairbanks Republican, compared it to a house payment. She said most people would love to pay off their mortgages sooner, but the question is: Can they afford the bigger payment?

Wilson said she doesn’t think the state can afford the governor’s plan.

“How are you going to make these payments when you’re not even making the annual payment this year?”  she asked. Wilson said revenue shortfalls will require the state to use reserves to pay off the debt.

Another amendment, which passed, added another $30 million in one-time funding to schools. It was a substitute for a provision that would have changed the way students are counted to favor larger schools.

The Senate also has an education spending plan that doesn’t include increases to the BSA, but would add $75 million to the education budget.  One of the next steps in the process is for the Senate and House to meet in committee to reconcile their budgets.

A grassroots group of parents, Great Alaskan Schools, had representatives watching in the House gallery Monday. They’ve held rallies in Anchorage, Juneau and the Mat-Su, pushing for the $400 BSA increase.

Latest Stories

  • Crime

    2 arrested in connection with $30K stolen from Alaska fish hatchery

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Dec 20, 18:39

    Two Palmer men are in custody in connection with a burglary that occurred at an Alaskan fish hatchery last month. On Nov. 8, Alaska State Troopers were notified that $30,000 worth of steel, aluminum and copper had been stolen from the Eklutna Tailrace fish hatchery. The suspects also caused approximately $30,000 worth of damage by “cutting through walls […]

  • News

    Last call to get Christmas gifts in the mail

    by Shannon Ballard on Dec 20, 17:07

    The Saturday before Christmas is one of the busiest mailing days of the year — and for good reason. If gifters want to make sure their cards, presents and parcels arrive by Dec. 25, the deadline to send mail first-class or priority is today. “With our transportation network that we have, a lot of our priority […]

  • News

    Anchorage libraries get new self-checkout machines

    by Sierra Starks, Shannon Ballard on Dec 20, 16:24

    Anchorage Public Library is unveiling a new addition to its branch locations. Libraries around Anchorage debuted new self-service checkout machines last week. Z. J. Loussac Public Library launched their new machines Friday. On Saturday, library-goers could be seen testing out the touchscreen feature, returning books and DVDs and checking their account balances. Stacia McGourty, a reference and […]

  • News

    Man fatally struck, trapped under vehicle near downtown Anchorage

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Dec 20, 14:58

    A man is dead after a pedestrian-involved crash near downtown Anchorage that occurred early Saturday morning. At around 2:30 a.m., police and medics responded to the collision near the 1400 block of 12th Avenue. The 911 caller stated that a man delivering newspapers had struck a pedestrian, according to a statement from the Anchorage Police Department. […]

  • News

    Coast Guard rescues stranded Alaska hunter

    by Associated Press on Dec 20, 12:08

    The U.S. Coast Guard has rescued a hunter who was stranded on Chicagof Island in Alaska after he was separated from his hunting party. Rescuers in Juneau were alerted that there was a hunter in distress on the nearby island. They launched a helicopter crew to find him in the dark of night. The hunter […]

  • Sports

    Day 2: T-Bird Classic, Cougar Tip-Off

    by KTVA Sports on Dec 20, 11:52

    Day 2 of the T-Bird Classic brought a hot start for the Bears, whose girls won, 51-14, against Eagle River. A bomb threat briefly placed East High School on lockdown and the game was delayed. Kodiak’s Dannika Catt called the long delay at halftime “awkward at first.” “Because we didn’t know if we were still going […]

  • Sports

    UAA women’s basketball continues winning streak

    by KTVA Sports on Dec 20, 11:28

    The UAA women’s basketball team made their record 10-0 with another impressive performance Friday against Texas A&M Kingsville.

  • News

    Murkowski expresses concern about North Korean cyber hack

    by Lauren Maxwell on Dec 19, 22:31

    Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Friday she is very concerned now that the U.S. has established a link between the North Korean government and a recent hacking attack against Sony. The senator said the Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, considers the cyber attack a  national threat. “This hacking is directly linked to North Korea, there’s […]