The Alaska House finance committee plans to spend some of the state’s extra money from high oil prices to fund public education a year up front.
The committee updated its version of the budget on Wednesday, with $1.2 billion committed to public schools beyond what he had already planned. If the plan becomes law, it would mean there is enough money budgeted to cover the state’s share of tuition through June 2024.
Nome Democratic Rep. Neal Foster, co-chair of the committee, said education is a priority for the House majority.
“Stability is an issue when school districts have to build their budgets,” he said. “We felt it was important that with the amount of money flowing into the coffers, the time was right to provide that stability to school districts.”
The amount represents about a third of the additional $3.6 billion that the Ministry of Revenue forecast the state will receive Tuesday in its spring revenue update.
The committee would save a large portion of the newly projected revenue.
Committee member Rep. Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, said the legislature should take a cautious approach in how it plans for oil revenues that may never materialize.
“We come from a commercial fishing background, and I’ve yet to see a commercial fisherman spend money before their net goes down the drain,” he said.
Governor Mike Dunleavy has offered to save almost all of the projected surplus.
He also wants the Legislative Assembly to pass the two permanent fund payments he has proposed, totaling $3,700.
The forecast did not change the House Finance Committee’s approach to the dividend. The committee is proposing a one-time energy relief check that would be the same size as the dividend it is proposing. The total would be around $2,500.
The committee’s current plan is to consider the budget amendments on Monday. Once the committee completes its work on the budget bill, the entire House will vote on it, before it goes to the Senate.