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Senate Asks House to Reconsider Education Package


April 2, 2004

The State Senate Republicans Thursday rejected an opportunity to fund Alaska classrooms with an additional $84.5 million say the Alaska Democrats. The House of Representatives unanimously agreed to the funding package several weeks ago. Senate Bill 283 contained several provisions added in the House. According to the Alaska Democrats, concurrence vote would have agreed to those changes, which include the K-12 and University education funding package.

Thursday the Senate formally requested the House to rescind its action on Senate Bill 283, which was amended March 8th to increase education funding and included almost $10 million in discretionary capital projects.

"We are respectfully asking the House to rescind from its amendments and go back to a clean 'sweep' bill," said Senate President Gene Therriault (R-North Pole). "If they decide not to, it will trigger a Conference Committee to work out the differences. If they do rescind, Senate Bill 35 could become the vehicle for the education package."

Sponsored by Bethel Democrat Lyman Hoffman, Senate Bill 283 unanimously passed the Senate Feb.16 as a bill to restore money that was transferred into the Constitutional Budget Reserve on June 30, 2003, under a constitutional provision requiring that sub-accounts of the general fund be "swept" into the Budget Reserve at the end of each fiscal year.

Members of the Senate Leadership signed on as co-sponsors of the measure when it was introduced January 28, 2004, after they received a commitment from Senate Minority leaders that the bill would remain "clean."

Senate Bill 35 is currently in the Senate Finance Committee, where it was amended to increase K-12 and university funding by $98 million and includes $7.4 million for the Department of Education's top major maintenance projects.

"We believe education-related capital projects are more appropriate for an education package," Therriault said. "In Allakaket, for example, instead of $200,000 in the House bill for heavy equipment, the Senate proposes $603,000 to replace or repair water and sewer facilities and aging boilers, and to renovate restrooms in a school built in 1979.

"Does this signal that the Senate Majority supports a lesser amount for education?" asked Senator Bettye Davis (D-Anchorage). "My priority is to provide adequate resources for classrooms statewide. We could have done that today with this vote, but it was not to be."

Senate Democrats said Thursday they joined with Alaska parents, teachers, and administrators across the state who have called for the best deal possible for education. At the moment, say Senate Democrats, SB283 is that vehicle.

"After three weeks of holding the bill on his desk, the Senate President allowed Majority Leader Ben Stevens to direct his caucus to take a step backward," said Senator Gretchen Guess (D-Anchorage). "Senate Democrats continue to show that education is our priority."

The failed concurrence vote on SB283 automatically sends the bill back to the House to recede or back up its amendments. If the House fails to recede from its amendments to SB283, the bill goes to a conference committee.


Sources of News:

Alaska Republicans
Web Site

Alaska Democrats
Web Site


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