Reflecting on the close of the 28th Alaska Legislature, Governor Sean Parnell today highlighted his successful legislative agenda and thanked legislators for their historic work on behalf of Alaskans. The governor's priorities this year included more educational opportunity, advancing an Alaska gasline, and reducing state spending while paying down Alaska's debt relating to the state's unfunded pension liability.
More Education Opportunity and Funding
After declaring the second session of the 28th Alaska Legislature the "Education Session," Governor Parnell worked with legislators to pass House Bill 278, Alaska's Education Opportunity Act. The legislation provides new educational opportunities, such as charter, correspondence and residential schools, and vocational training. The bill also includes a significant increase to school funding.
"This legislative session, we took a big step toward ensuring our students are well prepared, and Alaska's future remains bright as a result," Governor Parnell said. "With Alaska's Education Opportunity Act, we have accomplished our goal of improving Alaska's schools through more educational opportunity and additional funding. I thank the many Alaskans who took the time to make their voices heard."
Governor Parnell's education legislation also includes provisions that provide a substantial boost to the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program (ANSEP), increase residential school stipends to create more opportunity for rural students, and eliminate the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam, replacing it with a student's choice of the ACT, SAT, or WorkKeys assessments.
The Legislature also passed Governor Parnell's Digital Teaching Initiative to deliver higher quality instruction and more diverse classes to Alaska's students.
Getting Gas to Alaskans: Advancing the Alaska LNG Project
After reaching historic alignment among the State of Alaska, the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation (AGDC), the producers, and TransCanada, Governor Parnell introduced Senate Bill 138, seeking public hearings and legislative approval of the necessary framework for Alaska to become an owner in the Alaska LNG Project.
For the first time in Alaska's history, all the necessary parties for a project are aligned, the Legislature has authorized the State to proceed with the other parties into the early engineering and design phase, and a clear path forward on a gasline has been initiated that can create thousands of jobs and fuel Alaskan homes and businesses.
"As an owner in the Alaska LNG Project, Alaska will control her own destiny," Governor Parnell said. "I appreciate the Legislature's thorough review of SB 138, and I look forward to working with legislators in the future to get Alaska's gas to Alaskans."
With the passage of SB 138, the Alaska LNG Project now moves into the Pre-FEED (Pre-Front End Engineering and Design) phase -- a half-billion-dollar commitment, spread across all parties, to further refine the engineering and cost challenges of the project.
Reducing State Spending and Paying Down Alaska's Debt
Governor Parnell focused on reducing state spending and paying down Alaska's debt by tackling Alaska's biggest cost driver, its unfunded pension debt. In addition to reducing spending by $1.1 billion, the Legislature passed House Bill 385, the governor's legislation to pay down Alaska's unfunded pension liability by infusing $2 billion into the Teachers' Retirement System and $1 billion into the Public Employees' Retirement System from the Constitutional Budget Reserve Fund. With the $3 billion infusion, the state will be able to make lower annual payments to the pension plan and better control state spending.
"We are committed to paying down Alaska's debt and strengthening Alaska's already stellar fiscal position," Governor Parnell said. "In passing House Bill 385, legislators are putting our state on a more secure financial footing, while also ensuring our great grandchildren aren't saddled with this debt."