• 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

  • News

    Public invited to speak at People Mover meetings

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Dec 04, 21:53

    Anchorage municipal transit officials plan to overhaul the People Mover bus system. A series of meetings were held in November to allow the public to voice their thoughts on the proposed changes, and anyone who wasn’t able to to attend will be able to do so at additional meetings scheduled throughout December. The proposals include cutting […]

  • News

    Coast Guard to begin hearings on Alaska Juris sinking

    by Associated Press on Dec 04, 19:08

    The U.S. Coast Guard is holding a series of hearings in Seattle to determine what caused the flooding that sank a fishing vessel off Alaska’s Aleutian Islands last year. The Seattle Times reports the 230-foot Alaska Juris sank in July 2015 after a problem in the engine room led to flooding on board. All 46 […]

  • After heartbreaking loss, family restaurant carries on co-founder’s legacy

    by Eric Ruble on Dec 04, 18:40

    One would be hard pressed to find an Anchorage restaurant smaller than Falafel King. Avi Avraham and his wife, Simha Avraham Lalki, founded the cozy spot on Gambell Street in early 2007. The Israeli immigrants opened the restaurant with the help of their four children, two of whom live in Anchorage. “Everyone just loves it. […]

  • News

    One month after running away, Anchorage family continues search for missing teen

    by Eric Ruble on Dec 04, 18:00

    Mary Rotzler’s family is desperate for answers more than one month after the 14-year-old went missing. The East High School freshman ran away from home on Nov. 1. Her mom, Brenda Parduhn, said she last saw her daughter near Bragaw Street and Richmond Avenue in Mountain View. “I think she’s here in Anchorage and somebody’s […]

  • News

    Fidel Castro’s ashes interred in private ceremony, ending nine days of mourning

    by Associated Press on Dec 04, 17:43

    Fidel Castro’s ashes were interred in a private ceremony Sunday morning, ending nine days of mourning for the man who ruled Cuba for nearly half a century. The military caravan bearing his remains in a flag-draped cedar coffin left the Plaza of the Revolution in the eastern city of Santiago at 6:39 a.m., returning empty […]

  • Lifestyle

    Operation Santa Claus brings Christmas cheer to Akiachak

    by Heather Hintze on Dec 04, 17:29

    Santa Claus just couldn’t wait until Christmas Eve to deliver presents to the village of Akiachak. On Saturday, he gave his reindeer the day off and enlisted the help of the Alaska National Guard’s C-130 to get him to the small Kuskokwim community at sun up. It’s all part of the Operation Santa Claus program […]

  • Sports

    Memorial run honors Alaskan killed in 2014 avalanche

    by John Thompson on Dec 04, 16:54

    The Erik Peterson Memorial 5K Run took place Sunday, honoring a beloved member of the Alaska community who tragically passed away in an avalanche two years ago. Peterson was a West Anchorage High School football coach and Dimond High School track and field and cross-country coach. An avid outdoorsman, Peterson was in the backcountry of […]

  • News

    Army Corps of Engineers denies easement for Dakota Access Pipeline

    by KTVA / AP on Dec 04, 14:56

    Last updated at 3:33 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4 The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says it won’t grant an easement for the Dakota Access oil pipeline in southern North Dakota. Corps spokeswoman Moria Kelley said in a news release Sunday that the administration will not allow the four-state, $3.8 billion pipeline to be built […]