House passes budget to pay last year’s firefighting, healthcare bills

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - The Alaska House of Representatives has passed a supplemental budget that addresses the high cost of last summer’s wildfires, healthcare expenses the state incurred, and funding shortfalls for essential services like the Alaska Marine Highway System.

    House Bill 234 passed on a 35-2 vote.

    The bill approves spending $298.6 million of unrestricted general funds and an overall total of $526.2 million of state and federal money. The supplemental budget includes $120 million of state funds and $143.4 million of federal funds for Medicaid provider payments, spending necessary due to the governor’s unsuccessful attempt to implement drastic reductions to the Medicaid program; $110.5 million to pay for wildland firefighting costs incurred last summer and fall; $8.6 million to restore Adult Public Assistance to ensure payments for low-income Alaskans, which the governor vetoed last year; $8.3 million to restore the Adult Preventive Dental Program, which the governor vetoed last year; $7.1 million for the Alaska Marine Highway System to avoid a reduction in the operating schedule for the spring and summer of this year.

    Additionally, $6.7 million for the Department of Public Safety to address a shortfall within the Alaska State Troopers and Alaska Wildlife Troopers due to a lower than expected vacancy rate; $6 million to help the Alaska Psychiatric Institute increase its capacity; $3 million to address the severe damage caused in Anchorage, Kenai, and Mat-Su by the December 2018 earthquake; $150,000 to re-open the District Attorney’s Office in Utqiagvik.

    Rep. Neal Foster, a co-chair of the House Finance Committee, said, “The State of Alaska incurred significantly more costs than the final budget last year funded. This supplemental budget makes sure doctors keep receiving Medicaid payments they’re owed and provides resources for many essential services that have suffered over the past year.”

    “The supplemental budget reflects the need for thoughtful analysis when constructing Alaska’s budget,” said Rep. Jennifer Johnston, a co-chair of the House Finance Committee. “I’m grateful for the collaborative approach taken this year and that the supplemental budget passed the House in a timely manner with broad support.”

    “Today’s vote is proof that we can work together, across the aisle and with the governor, to make tough decisions and pass a budget on time,” House Speaker Bryce Edgmon said.

    Rep. Louise Stutes added, “The Alaska Marine Highway System is overdue for a lifeline, and the money included for our ferries is an important first step toward taking care of our coastal communities.”

     

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