• 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

  • Lifestyle

    Repsol settles with EPA over Alaska spill

    by Associated Press on Sep 03, 13:20

    The American subsidiary of a Spanish oil company will pay just over $30,000 after a 2013 spill on Alaska’s North Slope. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says Repsol E&P USA will pay to settle allegations it violated the Clean Water Act. The company didn’t immediately return an email to The Associated Press on Thursday seeking […]

  • Lifestyle

    Millennials describe themselves as self-absorbed, wasteful

    by Associated Press on Sep 03, 12:53

    Even millennials don’t think much of their generation. A Pew study released Thursday shows 59 percent of millennials described their generation as “self-absorbed.” Almost half – or 49 percent – said they were “wasteful,” and 43 percent said they were “greedy.” The highest-ranking positive traits they came up with were “environmentally conscious” at 40 percent […]

  • DayBreak

    Local blog aims to have it all when it comes to music, art, entertainment

    by Daybreak Staff on Sep 03, 11:07

    Alaskans looking to get out and have a good time after a long week at work or school often turn to one blog in particular to get the 411 on local entertainment, music, the arts, events and more. Phil Crawford with 907 Life joined Daybreak Thursday with the latest from his blog and First Friday […]

  • DayBreak

    Food-themed events planned in Anchorage during ‘Hunger Action Month’

    by Daybreak Staff on Sep 03, 10:46

    September is “Hunger Action Month.” It’s a movement to ensure no Alaskan goes hungry. Mike Miller, the executive director with the Food Bank of Alaska, joined Daybreak Thursday to talk about the organization’s two campaigns it’s promoting called “Go Orange” and “Spoontember.” “Hunger Action Month is all month, but on Sept. 3 we ask people […]

  • Weather

    Daybreak weather, Sept. 3

    by Rachael Penton on Sep 03, 10:12

    Anchorage Cloudy with on-and-off rain. Highs in the mid to upper 50s. Kenai and Prince William Sound Cloudy with on-and-off rain. Highs in the 50s. *A flood advisory is in effect through Friday evening for the Kenai River from the Kenai Lake to Skilak Lake. Minor flooding is possible. Low-lying areas surrounding Kenai Lake could […]

  • News

    Search suspended for man who went missing after Cook Inlet rescue

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Sep 03, 9:34

    The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended the search for missing kayaker Bruce Gronewald, who went missing after he was recently rescued from Cook Inlet when his canoe sunk. A search for the 55-year-old Wasilla man was launched after concerned family members contacted authorities Tuesday morning when he did not return from a kayak outing, according to […]

  • News

    Alaska Supreme Court to hear school funding lawsuit soon

    by Associated Press on Sep 03, 8:35

    Attorneys for both the state of Alaska and the Ketchikan Gateway Borough are preparing to make their cases on education funding before the Alaska Supreme Court this month. The Ketchikan Daily news reports (http://bit.ly/1JMCji0) that oral arguments in the case are scheduled for Sept. 16 in Anchorage. A Ketchikan Superior Court judge last November invalidated […]

  • News

    Vessel sinks near Sitka, leaking nearly 30 gallons of oil

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Sep 02, 21:24

    Multiple agencies responded to a sinking vessel near Sitka Wednesday. The vessel ran aground Tuesday evening and spilled “10-30 gallons” of oil, according to U.S. Coast Guard officials. The Pacific Venture, a 58-foot seiner, rolled over around 2 a.m. on Wednesday and sank in an area approximately 25 feet deep and roughly half a mile from […]