Senator Josh Revak
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Thanks for taking the time to complete our survey and share your thoughts and concerns with me. I really appreciate hearing from neighbors and Alaskans like you.
While I have been responding to emails, I noticed that many of our neighbors shared similar thoughts and had similar questions. I have a few concerns of my own. So, I thought it might be best to include my thoughts related to the issues at hand in their entirety.
Currently the most pressing matter is the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19. This is a priority concern for all Alaskans, especially as the number of confirmed cases increase in our state each day. Most of the cases are not from community transmissions within Alaska but are due to travel from separate impacted areas converging back in the state. The precautions we take must be measured and carefully executed. Rash actions rooted in fear will only amplify the challenges the virus presents. We have taken necessary preemptive action to minimize the impact of the virus by passing HB 206, which funds a total of $13 million to the Division of Public Health to confront the virus ([link removed]) . In addition, the legislature is working to help Alaskans impacted by potential layoffs due to COVID-19 preventive measures.
This week we have all witnessed the significant drop in the price of oil ([link removed]) and the stock market lose considerable value ([link removed]) . This creates even more fiscal challenges ([link removed]) than Alaskans were already facing. Our budget has been primarily funded by revenues sourced directly from the oil industry. These revenues rely on a healthy price of oil and volume of production, both of which have been dishearteningly low in recent years.
Our budget also relies heavily on the earnings of our Permanent Fund earnings. The Fund’s earnings rely on the health of the stock market. Due to a 30-year decline in oil production ([link removed]) , past legislatures have allowed a percentage of the earnings (POMV) to be used, in part, to help fund our government. This means the stock market volatility makes our budget problems even worse. The bottom line is, low oil prices, low oil production ([link removed]) , a declining stock market, and all the impacts of the corona virus leaves Alaska in a very difficult financial situation.
This year we face a $1.5 to $2 billion deficit ([link removed]) . That means our bills are at least 34% more than our paychecks. In light of our state’s fiscal issues, we need to continue reducing the budget while we increase our revenues. While we have cut the overall budget ([link removed]) nearly in half since 2013, the primary cut was the $2 billion capital budget. The most expensive agencies ([link removed]) in the budget include Education and Health & Human Services/Medicaid. Finding cost savings in those agencies requires comprehensive programmatic policy changes in order to avoid severe consequences to students and sick people. We have a lot of work to do in order to achieve a rightsized government. However, the legislature learned last year when presented with a nearly $300 million supplemental budget
([link removed]) to restore funding for the current fiscal year, we can’t just cut funding without big programmatic policy changes.
It is critical to our short-term future that we do what we can to incentivize an increase in oil production while we develop more long-term diversification solutions. I remain very optimistic toward production increases, given the explosion of capital investments ([link removed]) in projects on the North Slope. In just a few short years, these investments will lead to real barrels of oil in the pipeline, increased production ([link removed]) , and money for state programs and services we all need, like education and public safety. We must encourage the production of new oil to fill our pipeline and provide new wealth for Alaska - not throw down a roadblock of new taxes that will drive investment elsewhere.
We will also work toward long term economic diversification ([link removed]) . Mined minerals ([link removed]) have been and will continue to be very important in the world economy into the future. Currently, we mine several types of minerals in Alaska, but we just ship them out raw to foreign countries. It has been said to be too expensive to have factories here. I have heard over and over, one of the biggest deterrents to scalable value-added business growth right here in Alaska is the high cost of energy ([link removed]) . The national average cost of electricity is $12.69 per kilowatt hour. Alaska’s cost is nearly double that, $22.90. This ranks Alaska as the second most expensive state to live in from a residential electric cost perspective.
I have come to believe that one of the first steps in attracting industry and new jobs to Alaska is to bring affordable energy to the rail belt. This is exactly why I was glad to support Senate Bill 123 ([link removed]) , which passed the Senate unanimously earlier this week. This is a big step toward reducing electric costs by promoting collaboration ([link removed]) amongst providers, while we focus on amazing renewable energy potential like new hydro-electric infrastructure projects ([link removed]) .
I encourage composure and resiliency as we face these hard times head on. Protecting and bolstering revenue streams, rightsizing government, diversifying the economy and leaving our kids an Alaska they can thrive in is what we all want. Combined, these efforts will move us toward a more sound, prosperous future.
While the budget and the coronavirus have taken all the air out of the room, we’ve also been working on everyday governance. Last year we focused a lot on criminal justice reform ([link removed]) , this year we achieved an overhaul of the Title 4 alcohol regulations ([link removed]) and continue to work on legislation concerning rural public safety ([link removed]) , wildlife management ([link removed]) , and the sanctity of ballot initiatives ([link removed]) and a whole host of other important issues.
We have some tough decisions to make and economic hardship to bear in the months to come. You can rest assure that I will be working very hard for you and our neighbors in order to help point us in the best direction possible. While there is much work to be done, one thing is for certain - Alaskans are the strongest, most resilient, and kindhearted people on the planet. I have total faith that regardless of the challenges the state is facing, Alaskans will rise to the challenge and overcome adversity. Our best days are ahead and challenges like these will only make us stronger.
Again, I'm honored to serve and represent Senate District M, look forward to hearing from you during the session. Please email me (mailto:[email protected]
) , call my office at 907-465-3879, or visit us anytime to share you thoughts and concerns.
FY20 Supplemental Budget & COVID-19 Aide
On Wednesday, March 18th, the legislature passed HB 234 ([link removed]) , the FY20 Supplemental Budget, to fund unpaid wildfire, healthcare and earthquake costs. The bill also includes funding to help communities and healthcare providers manage the impacts of COVID-19, this is in addition to the $14.1 million in HB 206 ([link removed]) passed by the legislature on March 11th. The supplement budget gives the State of Alaska open ended federal receipt authority in order to receive federal funds to specifically deal with the COVID-19 expenses.
SB 240 ([link removed]) , Unemployment Benefits for COVID-19, was introduced by the Senate on March 18th. The bill will aide Alaskans displaced from work due to COVID-19 and for self quarantine throughout the duration of this state and national emergency. The bill is scheduled for a hearing in Senate Finance on March 19th.
COVID-19 information is being updated on a federal, state and municipal level each day. The links below provide valuable information to help you stay up-to-date.
For current information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention ([link removed])
For current information from the State of Alaska ([link removed])
For current information from the Municipality of Anchorage ([link removed])
Drive-thru Testing for COVID-19 Available in Anchorage
Anchorage medical providers are offering drive-thru testing ([link removed]) for the new coronavirus. If you are experiencing symptoms, fever, cough or shortness of breath or if you believe you were exposed to the virus notify your primary/urgent care provider first before going to the drive-thru facility. Providers will then refer for testing. A photo ID is required for testing.
Drive-thru Location: 4115 Lake Otis Parkway
Hours of Operation: 9 am to 7 pm
Cases in the United States
SB 150 ([link removed]) - Intensive Management Surcharge/Repeal Termination Date
If enacted this bill would repeal the termination date 12/31/22 for the intensive management hunting license surcharge. In 2016 the legislature initiated an "Intensive Management Program" under the Board of Game to manage Alaska's game populations based on scientific analysis.
SB 150 was referred to the Senate Resources and Finance Committees. Both committees have fully vetted this bill and it has support from the department and stakeholders. It has now been referred to the Senate Rules Committee and anticipate it will be heard on the Senate Floor soon.
SB 173 ([link removed]) - License Mobile Intensive Care Paramedics
SB 173 consolidates oversight of the emergency medical services system (EMS) under a single agency. Currently, regulation of the EMS system is split between the State Medical Board and the Department of Health and Social Services.
SB 173 was referred to the Senate Health & Social Services and Labor & Commerce Committees. Both committees carefully vetted the bill and has overwhelming support from the EMS stakeholders. The bill has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee and anticipate it will be heard on the Senate Floor soon.
S ([link removed]) B 80 ([link removed]) - Initiative Severability
This bill seeks to ensure ballot initiative language that appears before voters at the ballot box is the same as the language circulated during the signature-gathering phase and to restore the legislature's important role in the initiative process.
The Senate amended and passed SB 80 on May 2, 2019 by a vote of 15-4 and has been referred to the House State Affairs and Judiciary committees. House State Affairs heard and held the bill on February 25th.
SJR 18 ([link removed]) - Commemorating the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage
This resolution requests the Lieutenant Governor coordinate recognition and commemorative events during the 100th anniversary year 2020 to celebrate the great strides made by women since the establishment of women's suffrage and celebrate the state's rich history in empowering women as equal members of society. In addition, the resolution recognizes the first female U.S Senator, Governor, and female Senators and Representatives that have served and currently serve in Alaska.
The Senate passed SJR 18 on March 18th, exactly 107 years after the First Territorial Alaska Senate passed a bill granting Alaskan women the right to vote.
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Emergency room physicians Nick Papacostas, Sami Ali, Nathan Peimann, and Timothy "Quigley" Peterson took time stopped by the office to share their concerns about the importance of Medicaid funding for treatment of addiction.
Civic Action Program
I had an opportunity to meet with Jill Simek, Kathryn Hoffmeister, Scott Pessetto, Erin Ruebelmann, Mel Bechberger. They were in the State Capitol to see the legislative process in action and discuss the oil industry and the work they do in Alaska.
I enjoyed visiting with constituent Bob Kaufman as he discussed the gifted education programs in school.
Constituent Brandy Stratman, a licensed mental health therapist, discussed the challenges of the work she does in treating adolescents with substance abuse and mental health issues. I appreciate the service, hard work and dedication of our healthcare providers.
Our mailing address is:
Session: State Capitol, Room 125, Juneau, AK 99801
Interim: 1500 West Benson, Room 410, Anchorage, AK 99503
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