Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/16/2003 05:00 PM FIN

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
     CS FOR SS FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 75(FIN) am(brf sup maj fld)                                                                   
     "An  Act  making appropriations   for the  operating  and  loan                                                            
     program  expenses of  state government,  for certain  programs,                                                            
     and to capitalize  funds; and providing for an effective date."                                                            
     CS FOR SPONSOR SUBSTITUTE FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 76(FIN)                                                                       
     "An Act making appropriations for the operating and capital                                                                
     expenses of the state's integrated comprehensive mental health                                                             
     program; and providing for an effective date."                                                                             
This  was the sixth  hearing  for this  bill in  the Senate  Finance                                                            
Co-Chair  Wilken  notified  testifiers that  any  written  testimony                                                            
received by the Committee  would become part of the public record on                                                            
this legislation.  He stated that verbal testimony  would be limited                                                            
to two minutes.                                                                                                                 
MICHAEL JEFFERY  testified via teleconference from  Barrow and urged                                                            
the Committee  to  continue funding  the "high  quality"  year-round                                                            
education that is provided  through the Alyeska Central School (ACS)                                                            
correspondence  program.   He spoke   of the  positive  educational                                                             
experience that  his family members have received  from the program,                                                            
and he  attested that closing  the school  would not save the  State                                                            
any money,  as the  base student  foundation  formula funding  would                                                            
follow the students to another school.                                                                                          
PEGGY WOOD, Interim Director,  University of Alaska Northwest Campus                                                            
in Nome,  testified via teleconference  from  Nome to urge  for full                                                            
funding  support   of  the  University.  She  noted   that,  of  her                                                            
seventeen-year  association  with  the University  system,  adequate                                                            
funding  has only  been provided  during  the past  five years.  She                                                            
stated that this funding  has, after a decade of reductions, allowed                                                            
the University  to provide "critical job skills" for  such things as                                                            
the education,  health, and vocational programs required  to support                                                            
the economic  development needs of  the State. She stated  that were                                                            
the funding level being  requested disallowed, the result would be a                                                            
reduction in  program funding, as  staff salary increases  have been                                                            
approved by the House Finance Committee.                                                                                        
LAVERNE SMITH,  Employee, University of Alaska Northwest  Campus and                                                            
Member, Common  Council, City of Nome, testified via  teleconference                                                            
from Nome and  urged for continued  support of the Northwest  Campus                                                            
funding which  provides the area's  students with important  skills.                                                            
JERRY TRAINOR  testified via teleconference  from Nome and  asserted                                                            
that funding  for education  should be a  State priority. He  stated                                                            
that such things as the  educational partnerships that the Northwest                                                            
Campus  has  made  available  in the  area  is  providing  workforce                                                            
training  that has benefited  the area and  increased the number  of                                                            
locally hired  employees.  He stated that  such things as  carpentry                                                            
and computer skills have also been provided.                                                                                    
JEFF SELVEY,  Employee,  Bering Straits  School District,  testified                                                            
via teleconference  from  Nome in  support of  funding education  to                                                            
allow  the  continuation  of such  things  as  the joint  effort  in                                                            
support  of the  area's  developmental  learning center  called  the                                                            
Northwestern Alaska  Career Technical Center (NACTC).  He noted that                                                            
with  the cooperative  efforts  by such  entities  as the  Northwest                                                            
Campus, NACTC has been  able to provide quality educational training                                                            
to assist, for instance, the area's health care field.                                                                          
ROGER   WRIGHT,   Executive   Director,    [name   of  organization                                                             
indiscernible],  from  an offnet  site in  Kotzebue  and urged  that                                                            
funding for the Center be reinstated.                                                                                           
NEAL  GEORGE,   President,  Association   of  Homes  for   Children,                                                            
testified  via  teleconference   from  Barrow  and   urged  for  the                                                            
continued support  of the Department of Health and  Social Services'                                                            
Family Preservation Fund  grant as it provides early intervention in                                                            
a cost  effective  manner  and serves  to "strengthen  families  and                                                            
communities"  from Ketchikan  to Barrow. In  addition, he urged  for                                                            
funding  for the Tobacco  Cessation  and Education  program, as  the                                                            
program is effective.                                                                                                           
BARBARA   COLE,   Health   Education   Program   Manager,   Maniilaq                                                            
Association,  testified via teleconference  from Kotzebue  and spoke                                                            
in opposition  to any reduction in the twenty percent  allocation of                                                            
the Master  Tobacco Settlement the  State received from the  tobacco                                                            
industry,  to support tobacco  cessation and  education programs  in                                                            
the State.  She stated that  this program  "is an act of  preventive                                                            
medicine"  and is effective  and supported  by the  citizens  of the                                                            
CATHERINE   BARLIN,  Small  Business   Owner  and  Substance   Abuse                                                            
Technician Student,  testified in Juneau, in opposition  to proposed                                                            
reductions   in  juvenile   treatment  programs.   She  shared   her                                                            
experiences volunteering  at the Johnson Youth Center  for youth age                                                            
twelve to  seventeen, and  she shared that  most of the youth  enter                                                            
the  program,  initially,  as the  result  of minor  consumption  of                                                            
alcohol.  This vice,  she continued,  could evolve  to more  serious                                                            
crimes. She stated that  these youth require program consistency and                                                            
follow-up  as  well  as  in-State  treatment   programs  near  their                                                            
families.  She communicated  that the youth  ask such questions  as:                                                            
"why aren't more youth  treatment programs available and why is only                                                            
one Alcoholics  Anonymous (AA) meeting  a week offered."  She stated                                                            
that these  youth get  caught in  the emotional  "revolving door  of                                                            
anger, frustration,  fear, distrust, fear, and despair."  She stated                                                            
that while she is unsure  how to answer the questions, she does know                                                            
that  treatment programs  do  help in  offsetting  further  criminal                                                            
activity and in  helping families cope. She attested  that, "we need                                                            
more of what we  don't have enough of." In addition,  she noted that                                                            
efforts must  be made to ensure that  whatever funding is  available                                                            
be used in an effective manner.                                                                                                 
Senator Taylor  asked the testifier to supply him  with a summary of                                                            
the  youth treatment  programs  that are  available  on a  statewide                                                            
AT EASE: 5:21 PM / 5:40 PM                                                                                                      
TIM SMITH,  President, Nome Fisherman's  Association, testified  via                                                            
teleconference  from Nome  and stated  that the  organization  has a                                                            
charitable  gaming  permit  and operates  a  pull-tab  business.  He                                                            
suggested  that the  State  could generate  revenue  by authorizing                                                             
video  gaming,  which,  he noted,  is  being  proposed  in  separate                                                            
legislation.  He informed  the Committee  that the  State of  Oregon                                                            
approved  video gaming, and  as a result,  has tripled its  revenues                                                            
above that previously  earned by pull-tabs and bingo.  He noted that                                                            
opposition  to video  gaming  centers around  the  need "to  protect                                                            
people  from  excessive  gaming;"  however, he  attested  that  this                                                            
should  not  be a  real  consideration  as multiple  uncontrollable                                                             
opportunities  already  exist via such  things as  the Internet.  He                                                            
declared  that  because  other  outlets  exist, the  State,  by  not                                                            
authorizing  video gaming,  is allowing  this revenue  stream  to go                                                            
outside the State.  He also spoke in opposition to  proposed changes                                                            
to the  tax-structure  for pull-tabs  as  it would  serve to  remove                                                            
needed revenue from charities.                                                                                                  
REBECCA  KLEINSCHMIDT, Representative,  Ketchikan  General  Hospital                                                            
Tobacco  Cessation   Program,  testified  via  teleconference   from                                                            
Ketchikan and urged the  Committee to fund, at the recognized twenty                                                            
percent of the Tobacco  Settlement Fund level, the Tobacco Cessation                                                            
and  Education  Program as,  she  attested,  its goal  of  assisting                                                            
people  to refrain  from smoking  provides  health  benefits to  the                                                            
smoker  and their  children.  She stated  that one  client  recently                                                            
voiced being  angry that the continued  funding of this popular  and                                                            
effective program  might be in jeopardy.  She also stated  that this                                                            
same client is now experiencing  financial benefit from not spending                                                            
in  excess of  $4,000 a  year  on tobacco  products  to support  her                                                            
tobacco addiction.                                                                                                              
LAURIE  THOMAS,  Representative,   Alaska  Infant  Learning  Program                                                            
Association  and  the   Ketchikan  Community  Connections   Program,                                                            
testified   via  teleconference  from   Ketchikan  to  address   the                                                            
consequences that  would result were the Committee's  recommendation                                                            
to  reduce funding  for  the  Infant Learning  Program  by  $250,000                                                            
approved.  She stated  that this reduction  would  result in  a five                                                            
percent decrease  in State  grant funding and  would also result  in                                                            
reducing  essential services  to five  percent of  the children  who                                                            
experience or are at risk  of developmental delays. Furthermore, she                                                            
stated, national  studies  indicate that for  every dollar  spent on                                                            
early detection  and intervention,  four dollars are saved  in long-                                                            
term care  and support  services.  She stated that  contrary  to the                                                            
reduction's intent  language, families are already  billed for these                                                            
services, and,  she attested, many struggle to pay.  She stated that                                                            
were families  required to pay more, or were more  families asked to                                                            
pay,  choices  that  might  result  would  include  whether  to  buy                                                            
groceries,  seek medical  attention,  or to obtain  Infant  Learning                                                            
services.  This,  she  continued,   would  be  a  hardship  to  some                                                            
families, and  some would choose not to seek assistance.  She stated                                                            
that funding  is already  inadequate,  and she  avowed that  further                                                            
budget reductions would cost the State more in the long run.                                                                    
MARY MARTIN, Instructor  and Social Work Student, Interior-Aleutians                                                            
Campus,   University    of   Alaska    Fairbanks,   testified    via                                                            
teleconference  from Tok  and urged support  of University  funding.                                                            
She  stated  that,   "the  Interior-Aleutians  Campus   is  a  vital                                                            
component  to  the continued  increase  in  the diversity  of  rural                                                            
Alaska  economies."  She furthered  that the  presence  of staff  in                                                            
these rural  areas makes  the University  system "more approachable                                                             
and less intimidating  as compared  to working with a faceless,  and                                                            
at times,  voiceless  educational  style of Internet,  mail-in,  and                                                            
teleconferenced  classes." In addition, she attested  that students'                                                            
concerns  are   afforded  "prompt,   courteous,  and  knowledgeable                                                             
assistance"  by the local staff. She  stated that oftentimes,  rural                                                            
programs are the ones that  experience "budgetary cutbacks," and she                                                            
urged  that the University  not  become "yet  another effective  and                                                            
needed organization  that vanishes from rural Alaskan  communities."                                                            
AT EASE 5:51 PM / 6:20 PM                                                                                                       
VICKIE MUZIK-O'BRIEN testified  via teleconference from Ketchikan in                                                            
support of the  Infant Learning Program (ILP) and  the benefits that                                                            
it has provided  to her child "who is developmentally  delayed." She                                                            
stated that  were a budget reduction  to occur to the program  in FY                                                            
04, on top of a budget  cut that occurred in FY 03, it would be very                                                            
difficult  for  the  Ketchikan  Community   Connections  program  to                                                            
continue to maintain  its ILP level of service. She  stated that any                                                            
reductions  in service  would be detrimental  to  her son and  other                                                            
people who  depend on those services.  She voiced that, "preventive                                                             
medicine  is worth a  pound of cure,"  and she  attested that  early                                                            
intervention  would save the State  a tremendous amount of  money in                                                            
the long run  and would also allow  families to remain in  the State                                                            
rather than being required to seek support services elsewhere.                                                                  
AT EASE 6:22 PM / 6:30 PM                                                                                                       
BING SANTAMOUR,  Chair, Kuskokwim Campus Advisory  Board, University                                                            
of Alaska,  testified via teleconference  from Bethel to  voice that                                                            
the Board fully  supports the University's budget  request, because,                                                            
she  declared, "any  cuts  to the  University would  greatly  affect                                                            
rural  campuses." She  stated  that while  a large  campus might  be                                                            
better able  to absorb budget reductions,  "the ripple affect"  of a                                                            
funding reduction  for rural areas  would be more severe  in regards                                                            
to its impact  on staffing and services.  She urged that  the budget                                                            
be   funded  in   order   to  continue   the   already  "bare-bone"                                                             
administrative units that exist.                                                                                                
BOB MEDINGER,  Director,  Kuskokwim  Campus, University  of  Alaska,                                                            
testified via teleconference  from Bethel and urged for full funding                                                            
of the University's  budget request. He informed the  Committee that                                                            
Campus has  experienced tremendous  program advancements  that have,                                                            
in turn,  resulted in  a 110  percent enrollment  increase, year  to                                                            
date. He stated  that local hire has  also increased as a  result of                                                            
these educational  opportunities.  In conclusion,  he attested  that                                                            
University staff salary increases are necessary, statewide.                                                                     
ELAINE MANNING testified  from an offnet site in Nelchina in support                                                            
of the  Independent Living  Program which has  allowed her,  a woman                                                            
suffering from  Muscular Sclerosis to reside in her  own home and be                                                            
cared for by her  family. She stated that she is thankful  for being                                                            
provided the  opportunity to live  at home, and she stated  that her                                                            
being able to do so also  saves the State the much higher expense of                                                            
nursing home care.                                                                                                              
PAM KRON, Student,  Interior-Aleutians Campus, University  of Alaska                                                            
Fairbanks,  testified  via teleconference  from  Tok  in support  of                                                            
continued  funding  of  the University  and  the  distance  learning                                                            
programs  it provides  to  people who  live  in rural  areas of  the                                                            
PHIL GUTLEBEN, Business  Manager, Lower Kuskokwim School District in                                                            
Bethel, testified via teleconference  from Tok and voiced, on behalf                                                            
of the  school district  administration, that:  flat funding  of the                                                            
base student  foundation  formula and  a reduction  of the  learning                                                            
opportunity  grants funding  would not sustain  current educational                                                             
programs; the  base student foundation  formula should be  increased                                                            
to $4,500 and  inflation-proofed; forward funding  of education must                                                            
be provided to  allow districts to provide "for long-range  planning                                                            
in  order to  maximize  the  use of  available  resources;"  reduced                                                            
Department  of  Health  and  Social  Services   funding  would  harm                                                            
families  "and would  place additional  burdens  on the educational                                                             
system;"  and, increased  funding of  the Department  of Health  and                                                            
Social Services and education  programs would be required to support                                                            
both  families  and the  educational  system.  He suggested  that  a                                                            
sliding  scale income  tax, a restructuring  of  the Permanent  Fund                                                            
distribution,  and/or the  establishment of  an education  endowment                                                            
fund be considered as funding  mechanisms. In addition, as a private                                                            
citizen, engineer,  educator and a registered Republican,  he voiced                                                            
support for  the government "streamlining"  that Governor  Murkowski                                                            
is  furthering;  however,  as  a foster  parent,  he  stressed  that                                                            
education should  be considered as the top priority.  He stated that                                                            
children  are not only the  future of the  country, but also  of the                                                            
BING  SANTAMOUR,  testified  via teleconference   from Bethel  as  a                                                            
citizen  and  resident  of  Bethel,  against   reduced  funding  for                                                            
postsecondary funding as  it would negatively affect the quality and                                                            
quantity  of  postsecondary   education  and  would,   in  addition,                                                            
negatively affect the opportunities  of citizens and would result in                                                            
an increase in unemployment.                                                                                                    
SFC 03 # 56, Side B 06:40 PM                                                                                                    
DON ROBERTS JR. testified  via teleconference from Kodiak and voiced                                                            
displeasure  with  the actions  of the  State's  elected  Republican                                                            
Senator Bunde  suggested that the testifier consider  running for an                                                            
elected office as, by doing  so, he could thereby offer his services                                                            
and ideas.                                                                                                                      
PATT GIBBS  testified  via teleconference  from  Kodiak against  the                                                            
proposed  decrease  in funding  for  student transportation,  as  he                                                            
contended,  the providing  of transportation  is required under  the                                                            
State's  Constitution.  In  addition,  she voiced  support  for  the                                                            
continued appropriate funding  level of Learning Opportunity Grants.                                                            
BETTY  WALTERS,   Superintendent,   Kodiak  Island  Borough   School                                                            
District testified  via teleconference from Kodiak  to urge that the                                                            
base student  foundation funding formula,  the Learning Opportunity                                                             
grants, and pupil transportation  be fully funded at the appropriate                                                            
MARY FORBES testified  via teleconference from Kodiak  in support of                                                            
education  funding.  She stated  that the  reason  she has  remained                                                            
living in Kodiak  is because of the  quality of life, to  which, she                                                            
attested, educational  opportunities are a contributing  factor. She                                                            
stated that she would forego  her Permanent Fund Dividend to support                                                            
education.  Furthermore, she voiced  support for a State  income tax                                                            
and/or an education tax.                                                                                                        
MERI HOLDEN testified  via teleconference from Kodiak  to state that                                                            
she has  lived  in Kodiak  for 29-years  because of  the quality  of                                                            
education and  the quality of life  that the area offers.  She urged                                                            
for full education  funding, inflation proofing, an  increase in the                                                            
base   student   foundation   formula,    and   full   funding   for                                                            
transportation,  opportunity  grants,  and  community  schools.  She                                                            
suggested that  a statewide tax be implemented to  support education                                                            
as, were it short-funded,  the quality of education would suffer and                                                            
the State  would be negatively  affected. She  voiced support  of an                                                            
income tax or a school  tax, "or whatever it takes" to properly fund                                                            
education. In  addition, she stated that further funding  reductions                                                            
would  force school  programs  to  be eliminated,  would  result  in                                                            
further staff reductions,  and would force such things as the school                                                            
pool to be close.                                                                                                               
CAILEY  STEVENS,   Seventh  Grade  Kodiak  Middle  School   Student,                                                            
testified via  teleconference from  Kodiak and urged for  continuing                                                            
support  of education  funding as,  she attested,  students must  be                                                            
challenged  and  education  must  be enhanced  by  the  offering  of                                                            
expanded  programs  such as  music,  physical  education,  swimming,                                                            
advanced classes, and a quality teaching staff.                                                                                 
VALERIE  WHITE,  Educator,  Kodiak  Middle   School,  testified  via                                                            
teleconference  from  Kodiak  to voice  concern  that,  in the  past                                                            
thirteen  years, the  base student  foundation  funding formula  has                                                            
increased only $190.63  for a 3.56 percent overall funding increase.                                                            
However, she stated that  during that same amount of time, inflation                                                            
has been 36.6 percent.  In addition, she noted that during this same                                                            
time period,  the State's  contribution to  the total annual  school                                                            
budget  has decreased  from  79.55  percent  to 60.62  percent.  She                                                            
stressed  that flat  funding  of education  and the  lack of  proper                                                            
inflation  proofing measures  are not  allowing schools  to keep  up                                                            
with the rising  expenses of property  insurance, health  insurance,                                                            
and fuel costs, and she  stressed, it is harming schools' ability to                                                            
provide new  textbooks and to meet  new federal and State  education                                                            
requirements such as the  No Child Left Behind mandate. In addition,                                                            
she  stated that  funding  to upgrade  and  replace  such things  as                                                            
school  equipment,  furniture,  and carpets  is not  available.  She                                                            
declared  that students are  not being provided  the education  they                                                            
need, and  she concluded  that, in order  to support education,  she                                                            
would  "gladly"  pay a  State  income tax  as  proposed  in SB  137.                                                            
However,  she  stressed  that  were  a tax  imposed,  it  should  be                                                            
equitable across all income levels.                                                                                             
BETTY   O'DELL,  Member,   Kodiak   School  Board,   testified   via                                                            
teleconference  from Kodiak, and urged for full funding  for schools                                                            
and  pupil  transportation.   She  stated  that  declining   student                                                            
enrollment,  combined with  increased expenses  resulting from  such                                                            
things as rising  fuel costs and property insurance,  as well as the                                                            
requirements  set  forth  by  the  No  Child  Left  Behind  Act  are                                                            
resulting  in increased class  sizes of between  35 to 40  students.                                                            
Larger class  sizes, she stressed  are harder for teachers  to teach                                                            
and make a more  difficult learning environment. She  urged that the                                                            
Legislature  "explore other avenues"  such as a State income  tax or                                                            
State lottery to fund education.                                                                                                
PAT CARLSON,  City  Manager, Kodiak  Island Borough,  testified  via                                                            
teleconference  from  Kodiak to  stress that  people  in Kodiak  are                                                            
"extremely  concerned  about  preserving  the  level of  quality  in                                                            
education" for  their students. He stated that the  local government                                                            
is contributing the maximum  allowable financial support toward this                                                            
goal, and now,  he attested, the community  requires the  assistance                                                            
of the Legislature to further  these endeavors. He stressed that the                                                            
size of a community is  a major factor when determining its cost per                                                            
capita  debt commitment  in its  participation in  the State's  bond                                                            
proposal to upgrade  or build new facilities, and,  he stressed that                                                            
a  small   community's   commitment  toward   this  endeavor   could                                                            
negatively  impact its budget.  He urged  that, when addressing  the                                                            
bond issue, the  State would also address municipal  revenue sharing                                                            
as it  has a major  affect on  small communities'  budgets as  "they                                                            
don't have  the money,  the resources,  or the  tax base to  absorb"                                                            
large  municipal revenue  sharing  reductions. He  suggested that  a                                                            
"floor  be  established"  and  that  a  "hold  harmless  bottom"  be                                                            
identified.  He concluded  that the  State should  develop a  fiscal                                                            
plan, and he attested "that  folks are willing" to contribute to the                                                            
State's budget.                                                                                                                 
WAYNE  STEVENS,  Executive  Director, Kodiak  Chamber  of  Commerce,                                                            
testified   via  teleconference  from   Kodiak  and  spoke   to  the                                                            
importance   of   providing    children   with   good   educational                                                             
opportunities by exampling  a Junior Achievement (JA) Program he had                                                            
utilized while  teaching his fourth  grade JA program. He  explained                                                            
that in  the program, economy  is defined as  a system of using  and                                                            
taking  care of  natural  resources,  human resources,  and  capital                                                            
resources.  He submitted that, we  as a State must take care  of our                                                            
human  resources by  providing  them with  a quality  education.  He                                                            
declared  that it would be  cheaper to provide  a quality  education                                                            
per capita  than it would  be were these  youth negatively  affected                                                            
and perhaps incarcerated  because of their inability to find gainful                                                            
employment  and  other  activities  after  high  school.  He  voiced                                                            
support for full funding  of the base student foundation formula for                                                            
local schools  and for full  funding for  the University. He  stated                                                            
that the Kodiak Chamber  of Commerce would be submitting a letter in                                                            
support of full funding for education.                                                                                          
MIKE MILLIGAN  testified via teleconference  from Kodiak  and stated                                                            
that he  is pleased with  the administration  of the State's  public                                                            
school system. He noted  that during his tenure on the Kodiak Island                                                            
Borough Assembly, he voted  to raise taxes, "and the sky didn't fall                                                            
in." He factiously  exampled that Alaskans have gotten  and continue                                                            
to get  "a free ride"  at the  state and national  level. He  stated                                                            
that instituting  an income tax "is not a bad thing,"  and he shared                                                            
that the state of Mississippi  has a higher funded school system and                                                            
a higher gas tax than Alaska.  He reminded the committee that Alaska                                                            
used  to have  a sales  tax. He  stated that  Alaska  must become  a                                                            
progressive  State, and he urged the  Committee to "please  send the                                                            
State in a different direction."                                                                                                
JERRY  KAINULAINEN,  [indiscernible]  Specialist,  Southeast  Alaska                                                            
Independent Living,  and Member, Governor's Committee  on Employment                                                            
and  Rehabilitation  of Persons  with  Disabilities,  testified  via                                                            
teleconference  from Sitka,  and spoke to  the value of Independent                                                             
Living Centers.  He shared the Center's  national mission  statement                                                            
as   follows:   "Assistance   to  persons   with   disabilities   is                                                            
accomplished by  providing information advocacy, independent  living                                                            
skills training, peer support,  and services that allow persons with                                                            
disabilities  to live  outside  of an  institution,  to move  toward                                                            
independence  and employment."  He  stated that  it is  a very  cost                                                            
effective program  when considering that, for an approximate  annual                                                            
cost   of  $43,000,   a   person  with   disabilities   could   live                                                            
independently  as  opposed  to  living  in  a  nursing  home  at  an                                                            
approximate annual  cost of $130,000 per person. He  stated that the                                                            
Center has been  successful in transitioning several  persons out of                                                            
nursing home  care to "living  independently  in their own  homes in                                                            
their  own communities."  He stated  that were  the proposed  budget                                                            
reductions to  this program adopted, two centers would  be forced to                                                            
close  and  seventeen   persons  with  disabilities   would  not  be                                                            
transitioned from  a nursing home to their own home.  He stated that                                                            
this would incur  a $1.5 million expense to the State.  Furthermore,                                                            
he  attested  that 49  individuals  would  be  forced to  move  into                                                            
nursing homes  at a cost  of approximately  $4.4 million. He  stated                                                            
that  this is  evidence that  Independent  Living  Centers are  cost                                                            
effective  programs,   and  he  urged  that  the  proposed   funding                                                            
reductions be reinstated to the program.                                                                                        
JOHN HOLST  testified via teleconference  from Sitka regarding  "the                                                            
current under-funding of  the bonded indebtedness issue, which is of                                                            
particular interest to  Sitka as it recently adopted a referendum to                                                            
build a new  auditorium, based on  the fact that there was  going to                                                            
be  60  percent  funding  from  the  State."   He  stated  that  the                                                            
auditorium  is a serious  matter, as  it has been  needed for  forty                                                            
years,  and he continued  that were  the bond  program changed,  the                                                            
project   would  be  placed   in  jeopardy.   He  stated  that   the                                                            
Legislature's  change of position, within a six-month  timeframe "is                                                            
bothersome  in that a  promise made  is a promise  kept." He  voiced                                                            
being "mildly appalled" at this change of events.                                                                               
JOHN FERRICK,  Volunteer Digital Media  Teacher, Sitka High  School,                                                            
testified   via  teleconference  from   Sitka  regarding   the  bond                                                            
indebtedness issue.  He stated that voters "constantly  renew" their                                                            
commitment to education  by approving these programs, strictly based                                                            
on the Legislature's promise  to support the program. He stated that                                                            
the prospect  of the Legislature  reducing  the funding of  the bond                                                            
indebtedness  program is  unsettling,  and he  suggested that,  were                                                            
plans afoot to  reduce the program's funding, it should  "only apply                                                            
going forward" to any bond  project that would be approved after the                                                            
Legislature makes this decision.                                                                                                
SHARYN FERRICK  testified via teleconference  from Sitka  and voiced                                                            
distress  regarding  the  possibility  that  the  Legislature  might                                                            
change its  mind in regards to funding,  at the 60-percent  level, a                                                            
local auditorium  project that people in the community  approved due                                                            
to their understanding  that this would be the level  of the State's                                                            
obligation  under the  bond indebtedness  program.  She stated  that                                                            
were the  State's obligation  to lessen, then  it would appear  that                                                            
once a politician  is elected, "then  the public falls behind."  She                                                            
urged the Legislature  "to live up  to its word" regarding  what was                                                            
initially voted  on during the statewide election  and represent the                                                            
wishes  of  the  people.  She  stated  that  the  recently  approved                                                            
auditorium is critical to the Sitka community.                                                                                  
JEAN FRANK  testified  via teleconference  from Sitka  and spoke  in                                                            
concern regarding  the proposal  to reduce  funding for the  Tobacco                                                            
Cessation and  Prevention program. She stated that  an investment in                                                            
tobacco control  saves lives  and dollars.  She likened the  tobacco                                                            
control program to building  a fence along a raging river to prevent                                                            
people from falling in and drowning.                                                                                            
TOM   CONLEY,  President,   Sitka   School  Board,   testified   via                                                            
teleconference   from  Sitka  and  stated  that  the   community  is                                                            
"discouraged"  about  the  proposal   to further   reduce  education                                                            
funding,  as he  stated, the  Board  was already  approaching  their                                                            
budget under  the auspice  of operating within  the previous  year's                                                            
reduced funding  levels. He  stated that  the proposed reduction  to                                                            
education  and  pupil  transportation   would  serve  to  "seriously                                                            
cripple schools" and would  thereby serve to eliminate more teaching                                                            
jobs  and induce  other  budget "paring."  He  stated  that, "it  is                                                            
unfathomable"  how we, as a State,  do not support our children,  as                                                            
Alaska has  one of the lowest  levels of state  taxes in the  nation                                                            
and has  "lots of  money in  the bank."  He concluded  that, were  a                                                            
State tax required to support education, then "so be it."                                                                       
Senator Taylor voiced support  for the testifier's comments. He also                                                            
noted,  in response  to the prior  testimony  regarding the  Tobacco                                                            
Control  Program  that  he has  fought  hard  to retain  the  twenty                                                            
percent of the  Master Tobacco Settlement that was  allocated toward                                                            
Tobacco Cessation and Prevention programs.                                                                                      
SUSAN SCIABBARRASI  testified via  teleconference from Wrangell  and                                                            
reminded  the Legislature  and  the  Governor that  recent  election                                                            
campaigns focused  on the need to  provide good public education  in                                                            
the State. Therefore,  she urged the Committee to  provide "adequate                                                            
and equitable funding for  education." She stressed that this should                                                            
include  providing adequate  funding  for the  learning opportunity                                                             
grants,  pupil transportation,  debt  reimbursement,  and  community                                                            
schools funding.  She stated that  the City of Wrangell financially                                                             
supports  its  education  system  to  the  fullest  allowable  level                                                            
through such  means as imposing the  highest tax rate in  the State.                                                            
However, she attested,  education mandates such as the No Child Left                                                            
Behind, inflation, and  other expenses continue to force program and                                                            
teacher  reductions.  She  stated  that further  reductions  in  the                                                            
City's revenue  budget would  negatively affect  the local  monetary                                                            
support of schools, as  currently one-third of the school district's                                                            
budget is attributed to City contributions.                                                                                     
ROBERT PRUNELLA,  Former  Schoolteacher and  Administrator,  Current                                                            
City Manager,  City of Wrangell, testified  via teleconference  from                                                            
Wrangell  and  informed the  Committee  that  the City,  like  other                                                            
communities in  the State, "is on the verge of imploding"  as it has                                                            
lost  a  third  of  its  population  and  its  logging  and  fishing                                                            
resources  are   declining.  He  noted  that  while   the  State  is                                                            
attempting  to balance  its budget  by implementing  such things  as                                                            
more taxes,  user  fees and program  reductions,  these moves  would                                                            
further damage  the City. He stated that a decision  must be made to                                                            
seek  other revenue  sources, specifically  to  further discussions                                                             
regarding making  Alaska a resource-based  State in order  to create                                                            
jobs and to promote industry.                                                                                                   
URLINDA  KENDALL VORGEES,  Wrangell  Resident and  Student,  Alyeska                                                            
Central School  (ACS) Correspondence  Program, testified  in Juneau,                                                            
and stated that  were the ACS program eliminated,  her ability, as a                                                            
senior, to graduate  by the end of the school year,  would be placed                                                            
in jeopardy.  She  stated that  not only  is this  program the  only                                                            
accredited correspondence  program in the State, it  is the only one                                                            
that accommodates  students with special  needs. She stated  that of                                                            
most importance to her  is the quality of the program's 25 teachers.                                                            
While she agreed  to the elimination  of its summer school  program,                                                            
she besieged the  Committee "to keep ACS open for  one more year" in                                                            
order to allow  the school to regroup  as perhaps a charter  school,                                                            
and to allow students to transition from the program.                                                                           
Co-Chair  Wilken  replied  that  discussions   to  this  effect  are                                                            
SFC 03 # 57, Side A 07:28 PM                                                                                                    
LINDA  VORGEES, Wrangell  Resident  and  Parent of  Alyeska  Central                                                            
School Student, testified  via teleconference in Juneau, and advised                                                            
that  other than  the  expense  associated  with operating  the  ACS                                                            
summer school,  closure of ACS would  not save the State  money. She                                                            
voiced that  ACS "is a  wonderful and unduplicated"  program  and is                                                            
the   only  accredited   correspondence   program   in  the   State.                                                            
Furthermore, she  shared that one of the accreditation  requirements                                                            
is that  each teacher,  at the high  school level,  must possess  21                                                            
credit hours in  the subject they teach. She stated  that ACS offers                                                            
"a safety net"  to students at risk  of dropping out of school.  She                                                            
requested  that "to not breach"  the agreement  with the parents  of                                                            
youth enrolled  in ACS, the  school must be  kept open until  August                                                            
2003, and she  urged that the school  be allowed to operate,  for at                                                            
least one more  year, to allow parents and students  to regroup. She                                                            
also suggested  that legislation  be authorized  to allow ACS  to be                                                            
recognized as a new independent school district.                                                                                
Senator Taylor  asked the testifier  to describe where she  resides.                                                            
Ms. Vorgees  stated that  rather than  being on  a road system,  her                                                            
home is approximately  a three-mile walk down a shoreline  and that,                                                            
due to its remote location,  access to a school is prohibited in the                                                            
wintertime.  She avowed that the ACS  program was created,  in 1949,                                                            
to provide for  the educational needs of families  such as hers, and                                                            
she assured  the Committee  that the need  for this type of  program                                                            
Senator   Bunde  opined   that  while   the   State  currently   has                                                            
approximately  53 school  districts,  "educational  judgment"  would                                                            
allow that half of that  number would be sufficient. Furthermore, he                                                            
noted  that  additional  administrative  expenses  would  negatively                                                            
affect classroom funding.                                                                                                       
Ms.  Vorgees understood  the  concern,  and  noted that  a  district                                                            
reduction would  be helpful to the  State. However, she stated  that                                                            
the creation of a new district  to accommodate ACS would continue to                                                            
be on "the Christmas Wish List."                                                                                                
LAURIE  BERGREN,   Parent  and  Member,  Petersburg   School  Board,                                                            
testified via  teleconference from Petersburg to attest  to the harm                                                            
that would  be incurred were school  district funding to  be further                                                            
reduced.  She shared that  staff and course  offerings have  already                                                            
been negatively affected,  and that in addition to being required to                                                            
provide  for mandated  programs, lower  funding,  combined with  the                                                            
increasing  costs of  such things  as retirement  benefits and  fuel                                                            
would continue to erode the quality of education being provided.                                                                
SHERI  WIKAN,  President, Petersburg  School  Board,  testified  via                                                            
teleconference  from  Petersburg  to share  with the  Committee  the                                                            
staff and program  reductions that the Petersburg  school system has                                                            
already  experienced  due to  budget  shortfalls. In  addition,  she                                                            
voiced  how difficult  it  is to plan  a budget  when  the level  of                                                            
funding from  the State and  the City are  unknowns. She asked  that                                                            
the Legislature provide  some "stability" to the education system in                                                            
the State.                                                                                                                      
MARILYN MENISH-MEUCCI  testified via teleconference  from Petersburg                                                            
and voiced  dismay that the Legislature,  after the recent  election                                                            
campaigns  that focused  on supporting  education,  is proposing  to                                                            
reduce education  funding.  She stated that  pertinent programs  are                                                            
being eliminated  in the high school  due to budget shortfalls,  and                                                            
she urged the  Legislature to adequately fund education  in order to                                                            
prevent education from "going backwards."                                                                                       
JOHN  BRINGHURST, Parent,  Local  Businessman,  Former School  Board                                                            
Member, testified  via teleconference  from Petersburg to  attest to                                                            
the "overall devastating"  harm that would result from a consistent,                                                            
gradual reduction in school  funding. He shared that from a business                                                            
point-of-view,  the ability to attract new people  to a community is                                                            
enhanced  by such things  as a good hospital  or school system,  and                                                            
now, he stated  insufficient funding  is negatively impacting  these                                                            
community  attributes.   He urged  that  other  options,   including                                                            
elimination  of  the Permanent  Fund  Dividend  program,  should  be                                                            
scrutinized before further school short funding occurs.                                                                         
JIM SCHWATZ, Teacher,  testified via teleconference  from Petersburg                                                            
and  voiced   concern  regarding   the   reduction  in  educational                                                             
opportunities that are  being provided to youth today as compared to                                                            
the education he had received  as a student in Petersburg. He voiced                                                            
disbelief  that  elected  officials  are  "blind"  to the  needs  of                                                            
students. He stated that  further education funding reductions would                                                            
begin a  downward spiral  that the State would  regret, as  it would                                                            
serve to undermine people's  desire to remain in the State. He urged                                                            
that "this trend" be reversed.                                                                                                  
Senator Taylor voiced that,  of the Committee members, "for the last                                                            
four  years, nobody  has  worked  harder  to get  education  funding                                                            
increases passed through  this Legislature" than Co-Chair Wilken and                                                            
himself.  He stated  that he  is proud  of the  fact that  education                                                            
received "a greater  increase in funding than inflation  was running                                                            
at the time,"  and in the fact "that it was the first  time that any                                                            
significant  increase  in  funding was  approved  in a  long  time."                                                            
Continuing,  he applauded  local efforts to  further control  rising                                                            
education  costs by  reducing local  expenses between  seven and  30                                                            
percent,  and  he  understood  that  further   reductions  would  be                                                            
incurred, even were State  funding maintained at the FY 03 level. He                                                            
voiced  concern; however,  that  continued reductions  in  education                                                            
funding would "destroy the whole program."                                                                                      
DONNA MARSH, Parent, and  Member, Petersburg School Board, testified                                                            
via  teleconference  from  Petersburg  to voice  concern  about  the                                                            
erosion  of   education  funding   as  expenses  such  as   property                                                            
insurance,  are  surpassing  funding allocations.  She  stated  that                                                            
continuing to reduce education  programs is negatively affecting the                                                            
quality  of   education  being  provided.   While  she  appreciated                                                             
Legislative efforts, she  avowed that further State assistance would                                                            
be required.                                                                                                                    
GARY PAXTON, Interim City  Administrator, City and Borough of Sitka,                                                            
testified  via  teleconference  from Sitka,  regarding  the  State's                                                            
obligation  to pay 60-percent of the  General Obligation  (GO) bonds                                                            
to pay  for the Sitka auditorium  and school  upgrades. He  stressed                                                            
that  the  State's  reneging  on  its  commitment   would  create  a                                                            
credibility  issue. Furthermore,  he stressed  that the citizens  of                                                            
the State must  contribute to generating a revenue  stream for State                                                            
expenses such as education.                                                                                                     
STEVE BRADSHAW, Sitka School  District, testified via teleconference                                                            
from Sitka to explain how  "painful" it was to reduce teaching staff                                                            
in local  schools  during  the previous  budgetary  process, and  he                                                            
attested  that were  the Governor's  proposed  education  reductions                                                            
furthered,  the City  would  be required  to again  reduce  staffing                                                            
levels. He stated  that this would result in larger  class sizes and                                                            
limited programs. He stated  that alternate revenues sources must be                                                            
identified, as "better" State funding must be forthcoming                                                                       
FRED  REEDER,  Mayor,  City  and Borough  of  Sitka,  testified  via                                                            
teleconference  from Sitka and voiced  agreement with the  testimony                                                            
of  Gary Paxton  who  specified that  Alaskans  should  pay for  the                                                            
services  that are provided  to them.  He urged  the Legislature  to                                                            
look to  the State's  citizens for  help, and  he shared that  Sitka                                                            
would be looking to its  citizens for help. He addressed the GO Bond                                                            
issue  as a covenant  between  the State's  citizens  and the  State                                                            
government  in that voters "overwhelmingly"  approved the  issue. He                                                            
continued that,  for the Legislature to alter the  approved program,                                                            
"is a break in faith."  In conclusion, he asked that the Legislature                                                            
provide funding to support  important and mandated programs, such as                                                            
Senator  Taylor agreed  with  Mr. Reeder's  comments.  He asked  the                                                            
consequences  to the City and Borough  of Sitka's FY 04 budget  were                                                            
current State funding levels maintained or reduced.                                                                             
Mr. Reeder  responded  that were  the current  level maintained,  an                                                            
eight percent  budget reduction would be anticipated.  Further State                                                            
funding  reductions,  he  continued,  would  negatively  impact  the                                                            
budget another two percent.                                                                                                     
Mr. Reeder pointed out  that "had the City not stepped up to plate,"                                                            
the school district "would  be in a world of hurt" as, he noted that                                                            
approximately  50 percent of the school  district's budget  could be                                                            
attributed to  the City. He noted that every community  in Alaska is                                                            
facing the dilemma of adequately  funding its school district within                                                            
the allowable funding parameters dictated by State law.                                                                         
Senator Taylor acknowledged  Co-Chair Wilken's efforts in support of                                                            
increased education  funding. Nonetheless,  he noted that  even with                                                            
the adoption  over-the-years  of legislation  to assist with  school                                                            
funding, he asserted  that the FY 04 proposed budget  reductions, in                                                            
addition to reduced State  base student foundation formula funds due                                                            
declining  enrollments,  would have  a "devastating  impact" on  the                                                            
school districts that have  testified during this meeting. He stated                                                            
that the budgetary numbers  being presented by these communities, as                                                            
opposed  to  the  hardships  attested  by  other  school  districts,                                                            
reflects the "real" situation being faced.                                                                                      
Co-Chair Wilken  acknowledged that  other Alaskan communities,  such                                                            
as  Kenai,   are  also  experiencing   foundation  formula   funding                                                            
reductions due to declines in student enrollment.                                                                               
Senator  Hoffman  acknowledged   the  Members'  efforts  exerted  in                                                            
support of education funding.                                                                                                   
The following testifiers testified in Juneau.                                                                                   
NICHOLAS  GROSSKRUTH,  Student,  University   of  Alaska  Southeast,                                                            
shared how  he has personally benefited  from the services  provided                                                            
by the  Southeast Alaska  Independent Living  Program, and  he urged                                                            
for continued  support of the program  and the services it  provides                                                            
to enable people to live independently.                                                                                         
JENNIFER LOESCH,  Student, University of Alaska Southeast,  informed                                                            
the Committee that after  graduation from high school in Petersburg,                                                            
she attended  a university in Texas  for one year, where  she stated                                                            
she was identified by her  student identification number rather than                                                            
by her name. She  shared that as a recipient of the  Alaska Scholars                                                            
program,  she decided  to  return  to college  in Alaska.  Now,  she                                                            
attested, she  is involved in University life and  is enjoying small                                                            
classes and  a "tremendous academic  program." She shared  her plans                                                            
to remain in the  State after she earns her college  degree, and she                                                            
urged  the  Committee   to  support  the  funding   request  of  the                                                            
CHRISTIN HOWARD,  Transfer Student, University of  Alaska Southeast,                                                            
spoke in support  of University funding.  She stated that,  although                                                            
the campus is much smaller  than the school she previously attended,                                                            
it  offers  more, "educationally   and socially."  She  praised  the                                                            
school's program  that is allowing  her to earn her "Masters  Degree                                                            
in Education  in only one year." She  attested that the small  class                                                            
sizes and  student activities  are attributes;  however, she  shared                                                            
that were programs, classes,  and staff eliminated or reduced due to                                                            
budget  reductions,  she would  be required  to leave  the State  to                                                            
pursue  her  education,  and,  furthermore,   she  stated  that  the                                                            
school's  ability   to  attract  out-of-state   students   would  be                                                            
RYAN GREEN,  Third-Year Out-of-State  Student, University  of Alaska                                                            
Southeast, testified  in support of full funding for  the University                                                            
as,  he attested,  recent  years' funding  support  has allowed  the                                                            
University  to expand its  facilities and  its course offerings.  He                                                            
stated that these  "immense changes" have made the  University "full                                                            
of life" and full of students.                                                                                                  
ERIC MORRISON,  Student, University of Alaska Southeast,  urged that                                                            
the University be fully  funded, as, he attested, it is difficult to                                                            
understand  why funding opportunities  are in peril, as they  assist                                                            
in providing a better quality  of life. He stated that "education is                                                            
the  key to  the country's  and  world's  salvation,"  and serve  to                                                            
defeat ignorance  and ideologies that contribute to  world problems.                                                            
He characterized  the  improvements  afforded to  the University  by                                                            
recent  years' funding  as  good; however,  he stressed  that,  with                                                            
continued   adequate   funding   the   University    could   achieve                                                            
"greatness." He encouraged  the Committee to revisit the decision to                                                            
reduce community  school, K-12, and  University funding,  and to "do                                                            
the right thing"  for the futures of youth, Alaska,  and the nation,                                                            
by fully funding education.                                                                                                     
Senator Bunde  commented that  the State is  spending more  than its                                                            
budget  allows;  therefore,  he requested  that  testifiers  include                                                            
program funding source suggestions in their testimony.                                                                          
JOYCE  KITKA,  Representative,  Alaska  Association   for  Community                                                            
Education,  informed  the  Committee  that,  for  $500,000  a  year,                                                            
Alaska's  community schools'  staff  and volunteers  provide  20,000                                                            
activities  for 464,000 children  and 390,000  adults. She  attested                                                            
that  the program  "is not  a luxury,"  and she  exampled  parenting                                                            
programs  and after-and-before  school childcare  programs as  being                                                            
representative of the types  of programs and services being provided                                                            
to people. She urged the  Committee to fully fund community schools,                                                            
K-12 and University education.  She suggested that Committee Members                                                            
visit a local  school program to witness and understand  why funding                                                            
educational  programs  is  so important.  In  addition,  she  voiced                                                            
support for implementation of a State income tax.                                                                               
MARIE  DARLIN, Capital  City Task  Force Coordinator,  AARP  Alaska,                                                            
spoke, on behalf of the  organization, in opposition to the proposed                                                            
elimination  of the  Longevity Bonus  program. She  stated that  the                                                            
primary purpose for establishing  this program was to keep people in                                                            
the  State, and  she  specified  that every  dollar  distributed  to                                                            
seniors through  the Bonus  program "turns  over at least twice"  in                                                            
the State's  economy.  In addition  to  the economic  impact of  the                                                            
program, seniors living  in the State contribute a tremendous amount                                                            
of volunteer  and caregiver hours.  Furthermore, she noted  that due                                                            
to recipient deaths,  the cost of the program is decreasing  by more                                                            
than three  million dollars per year  and would gradually  be phased                                                            
out. She urged  the Committee to leave the program  alone, as it, in                                                            
some cases, provides approximately  ten percent of some individuals'                                                            
Ms. Darlin,  in addition,  urged for funding  support for  community                                                            
schools,  K-12 and  University education,  the  State Museum,  State                                                            
Historical Library, State  Archives, and the Shelton Jackson Museum.                                                            
ROSALEE WALKER, Representative,  Older Persons Action Group and AARP                                                            
Alaska-Juneau   Chapter,  spoke  in   opposition  to  the   proposed                                                            
elimination  of the Alaska Longevity  Bonus Program, as the  funding                                                            
support  is  important  to senior  citizens.  She  stated  that,  in                                                            
response  to Senator Bunde's  request for  funding suggestions,  the                                                            
program already  existed in the budget and that it  should simply be                                                            
SFC 03 # 57, Side B 08:16 PM                                                                                                    
Ms.  Walker   continued  that  the   Administration's  proposal   to                                                            
eliminate  the program was  implemented "in  haste," and that  vital                                                            
information  was  not provided  to  assist  in the  decision  making                                                            
process.  She assured the  Committee that  Alaska's senior  citizens                                                            
are cognizant  of the State's  fiscal dilemma  and "that AARP  works                                                            
diligently  with   all  levels  of  State  government   in  reaching                                                            
effective solutions  to budgetary  problems." She asserted  that the                                                            
Administration's  swift  action  to eliminate  the  Longevity  Bonus                                                            
program  did not  allow sufficient  time to  thoroughly investigate                                                             
"alternative  strategies that could  be easily implemented  in order                                                            
to  avoid  a  disastrous  and  devastating   situation  for  a  most                                                            
vulnerable portion of Alaska's  population." She stated that seniors                                                            
were not  included in the  discussion process,  and she stated  that                                                            
arguments   in  support  of  the   Bonus  program  elimination   are                                                            
unreasonable.  She  asked  that  senior   citizens  be  provided  an                                                            
opportunity to  work with the Legislature and the  Administration to                                                            
determine a more acceptable alternative.                                                                                        
SAM  TRIVETTE,  President,  Retired   Public  Employees  of  Alaska,                                                            
requested,  on behalf of the members  of the organization,  that the                                                            
Longevity  Bonus Program  be restored  in the FY  04 budget,  as its                                                            
elimination would severely  impact its recipients. He noted that the                                                            
majority of the  program's recipients are women, 75  years of age or                                                            
older who have  "some of the lowest  retirement incomes and  some of                                                            
the highest  medical expenses"  of the State's  citizens. He  stated                                                            
that the  loss of the Bonus  program might  result in many  of these                                                            
senior  citizens  being required  to  leave the  State  in order  to                                                            
receive care. Furthermore,  he stated that local businesses would be                                                            
harmed by  the elimination  of the monthly  payments, as this  would                                                            
effectively  remove  approximately  $94  million worth  of  economic                                                            
benefits to the State.                                                                                                          
Mr. Trivette  also requested  that no changes  be imposed to  the GO                                                            
Bond  indebtedness  language  that  was  recently  approved  by  the                                                            
citizens  of  the  State, as  it  would  negatively  affect  locally                                                            
approved projects. He voiced  support for the continuation of ACS as                                                            
it is  only accredited  correspondence program;  and urged  for full                                                            
funding of the University  as it is a positive presence in the State                                                            
and in retaining Alaskan students.                                                                                              
NANCY ANDISON testified  in support of the Independent Living Grants                                                            
program  through  which  she  and  numerous   others  have  received                                                            
MARC WHEELER,  Member,  City &  Borough of Juneau  Assembly,  voiced                                                            
concern  regarding   the  proposed   changes  to  the  school   bond                                                            
proposition  as he noted that any  funding changes might  negatively                                                            
affect the community's  ability to build a new high school. He noted                                                            
that  70-percent  of Juneau's  voters  approved  the  November  2002                                                            
Statewide ballot  bond proposition,  even though no Juneau  projects                                                            
were identified  in it. He  also voiced support  for a State  income                                                            
JIM  CARROLL, 37-Year  Juneau  Resident,  Member, AARP  Alaska,  and                                                            
President,  Retired Teachers  Association-Juneau  Chapter urged  the                                                            
Committee  to adequately  fund  education,  as he  pointed out  that                                                            
people  are  the  State's  greatest  resource  and  they  should  be                                                            
provided  a  quality  education.  In addition,  he  urged  that  the                                                            
Longevity  Bonus  Program  be  allowed  to  terminate  as  currently                                                            
DANIEL  PETERSON,  Member,   City  &  Borough  of  Juneau  Board  of                                                            
Education, and Student,  University of Alaska Southeast, stated that                                                            
education  should be a  top priority  in the State.  He pointed  out                                                            
that the proposed  FY 04 budget reductions for K-12  education would                                                            
trigger  an $800,000  budget  loss to  the Juneau  school  district,                                                            
primarily  due to  the proposed  funding for  pupil transportation,                                                             
which  he  described  as  a  "fixed  cost."  He  stated  that  being                                                            
obligated  to provide  transportation  funding  at  the local  level                                                            
would remove funding  from all budget components,  and from teaching                                                            
positions  in  particular.  Therefore,  he  urged  that  full  pupil                                                            
transportation funding  be restored. Furthermore, he stated that the                                                            
proposed  ten-percent  reduction in  the bond  indebtedness  program                                                            
would harm communities,  on a statewide basis, that have projects in                                                            
progress.  He stated  that  the proposed  education  reductions  are                                                            
contrary  to the education  mandates being  implemented such  as the                                                            
federal No Child Left Behind Act.                                                                                               
Senator Taylor  asked the  total City and  Borough Of Juneau  school                                                            
district budget.                                                                                                                
Mr.  Peterson  responded  that  the  budget   is approximately   $35                                                            
PAUL DOUGLAS stated that,  as a parent of an adult son with multiple                                                            
disabilities,  he is urging that the  proposed 42.7 percent  funding                                                            
reduction to Centers for  Independent Living be restored, as were it                                                            
not, services  to individuals  would be prohibited.  He stated  that                                                            
the Administration's  position that  the program be self-sufficient                                                             
is unrealistic,  as the  federally funded  State Independent  Living                                                            
Council  Executive  Director  position,   through  which  key  grant                                                            
writing is  done, has been  eliminated by  State Administrators.  He                                                            
wondered  why   this  decision  was   made,  as  he  attested,   the                                                            
elimination   of  the  position   would  not   benefit  the   State.                                                            
Continuing,  he stated  that the  House of  Representatives  Finance                                                            
Committee  has recognized  the  importance  of the  program and  has                                                            
restored  the   majority  of  the   program's  FY  04  funding.   He                                                            
"respectfully  requested"  that  the  Senate  Finance  Committee  do                                                            
likewise.  In summary,  he  provided  information attesting  to  the                                                            
personal  and  financial benefits  derived  from  allowing  disabled                                                            
individuals  to independently live  in their own home as  opposed to                                                            
receiving   institutional  care.   He  stated  that  the   "math  is                                                            
compelling,"  and, he attested, that  eliminating these funds  would                                                            
serve to increase costs to the State elsewhere.                                                                                 
Senator Bunde,  Chair of  the Senate Labor  & Workforce Development                                                             
subcommittee,  noted  that,  while  the Senate  Labor  and  Commerce                                                            
Committee  restored $300,000  to the  budget,  a $318,000  shortfall                                                            
Senator Hoffman  asked for further information regarding  the intent                                                            
of the Senate Labor and Commerce funding.                                                                                       
[Note: Senator Bunde's response was indiscernible.]                                                                             
Mr. Douglas  noted that  some of  the program's  federal funding  is                                                            
earmarked for specific programs.                                                                                                
Co-Chair  Wilken assured the  testifier and  the Committee  that Co-                                                            
Chair Green is working on this issue.                                                                                           
EARL  CLARKE,  Employee, Independent  Living  Center,  informed  the                                                            
Committee that  continuous efforts  are being made by the  Center to                                                            
identify people  who could be transitioned from living  in a nursing                                                            
home to  living independently  in  their community.  He stated  that                                                            
assisting  people in this  manner has saved,  and would continue  to                                                            
save, the State  a tremendous amount  of money. Therefore,  he urged                                                            
the Committee  to support Independent Living Centers  as he declared                                                            
that, "money put into this  program is generating a lot more savings                                                            
than one  would think." He  stated that "the  simple answer"  to the                                                            
State's  budgetary  problem,  is  to allow  Alaskans  "to  pay  some                                                            
additional  taxes because  we do  not want  our care  system or  our                                                            
people decimated by a budgetary tool."                                                                                          
Co-Chair Wilken  stated that Committee Members have  been provided a                                                            
packet  [copy on file]  from the  Alaska Municipal  League that  the                                                            
following testifier might reference.                                                                                            
KEVIN RITCHIE,  Executive Director, Alaska Municipal  League, voiced                                                            
appreciation for the Member's  efforts to address the State's fiscal                                                            
crisis, and he  acknowledged Senator Taylor's remarks  regarding the                                                            
efforts  exerted  by communities  to  contain expenses  and  address                                                            
local  funding issues.  He  stated that  the  aforementioned  packet                                                            
contains  information regarding  how 60  communities are  addressing                                                            
the  State's "spiraling  economic  decline."  He noted  that  issues                                                            
being addressed include  how to maintain and provide for such things                                                            
as utilities  and  education infrastructure  in  light of  declining                                                            
population and  student enrollment. He stated that  the good news is                                                            
that the communities are  working with the Administration to address                                                            
revenue and spending issues in an efficient and creative manner.                                                                
Co-Chair Wilken  agreed that the willingness  of the Administration                                                             
to work with municipalities would be beneficial.                                                                                
Senator Bunde asked whether  the Alaska Municipal League has taken a                                                            
position   regarding  HB   11  which   would   reduce  the   State's                                                            
contribution  to the Permanent Fund  from the current 50  percent of                                                            
such  things  as mineral  lease  rentals,  royalties,  royalty  sale                                                            
proceeds,  and net  profit share  revenues to  the constitutionally                                                             
mandated 25 percent.                                                                                                            
Mr.  Ritchie informed  that  the League  has  not, of  yet, taken  a                                                            
position  on this  legislation; however,  he noted  that the  League                                                            
would be meeting  with Governor Frank Murkowski to  discuss this and                                                            
other issues.                                                                                                                   
Senator  Taylor recalled  that  several communities  testified  that                                                            
their insurance expenses  have risen dramatically, and therefore, he                                                            
inquired  as to  whether the  Alaska  Municipal League  (AML)  joint                                                            
insurance arrangement  (JIA) "significantly increased  its premiums"                                                            
to  cities.  In addition,  he  asked  whether  the  joint  insurance                                                            
arrangement for schools' premiums have increased.                                                                               
Mr. Ritchie  responded yes, that both  joint insurance arrangements                                                             
have experienced "massive  increases in the cost of re-insurance and                                                            
were  forced  to  pass"  that  increase  on  to municipalities   and                                                            
schools.  He noted  that both  of these  Alaska-based organizations                                                             
with Alaska-based  assets were able  "to blunt some of the  impact."                                                            
Senator Taylor asked regarding the percentage of the increase.                                                                  
Mr. Ritchie responded that he did not have that information.                                                                    
Senator Taylor  clarified that the  increase could be attributed  to                                                            
the cost of re-insurance as opposed to the cost of claims.                                                                      
Mr. Ritchie concurred.                                                                                                          
Senator Taylor  asked whether the  AML is advocating, like  numerous                                                            
others,  that  such  things  as the  Permanent  Fund's  earnings  or                                                            
instituting  taxes   be  used  to  address  the  State's   budgetary                                                            
shortfalls.  Continuing, he asked  whether anyone is furthering  the                                                            
idea  of  resource  development   as  a funding   mechanism,  as  he                                                            
declared, that he would  cut and sell every tree in the State before                                                            
he would  opt to reduce  funding to such  things as the Independent                                                             
Living program or to education.                                                                                                 
Mr. Ritchie voiced support for furthering resource development.                                                                 
KACI  HAMILTON, President  Elect,  University of  Alaska  Southeast,                                                            
stated that  he had recently  moved to Alaska  from Jamaica,  and he                                                            
applauded  the  quality  education  and the  willingness  to  assist                                                            
students  that the University's  teaching  faculty demonstrates.  He                                                            
stated  that  funding  is  important   to  the  continuance  of  the                                                            
University's attributes.                                                                                                        
NELI  NELSON,  Environmental  Science Major,  University  of  Alaska                                                            
Southeast,  urged the Committee  to fund  the University. He  showed                                                            
the Committee some of the  water sampling experiments that are being                                                            
conducted, and he voiced  that adequate funding is required in order                                                            
for  the   University   to  continue   to  offer   and  expand   the                                                            
environmental  science program. He  voiced that "he was blown  away"                                                            
by Senator Taylor's  declaration that he would cut  down every tree,                                                            
as he attested, that "is not the answer."                                                                                       
Senator Taylor stated that  he "firmly believes that these resources                                                            
are here" in order to provide  some funding to meet the needs of the                                                            
citizens  of  the  State.  He  stated  that  were  access  to  these                                                            
resources  denied, then  all that  would remain  would be "the  back                                                            
pocket of every  working man in this  State," and he continued  that                                                            
without a resource  base, jobs would  not be available for  long. He                                                            
stressed  that  people  need jobs  to  survive,  and that  he  would                                                            
utilize  every resource  in the State  before he  would deny  people                                                            
access to assisted  living programs or to an education.  He attested                                                            
that  Juneau was  created  because of  mineral resources,  and  that                                                            
other communities in Southeast also depend on resources.                                                                        
JONATHAN  SMITH,   High  School  Biology   Teacher,  Juneau   School                                                            
District,  stated that  rather than  the two  previous individual's                                                             
"extreme"  positions regarding  resource development,  he  described                                                            
himself as a moderate  who realizes that the State  must develop its                                                            
resources,  especially  mining and  timbering in  Southeast  Alaska;                                                            
however, he noted that  "controlled development" must be implemented                                                            
in order to avoid  "polarization" of people. He suggested  that "the                                                            
right thinking  and the right heart"  should be present when  making                                                            
decisions, and  he attested that not every tree must  be cut down to                                                            
provide  for jobs and  that such  things as buffer  zones should  be                                                            
designated  to  protect  streams.  He  noted  that  in  addition  to                                                            
resource development, sales  taxation is also an option; however, he                                                            
stated that consideration  must be given to not taxing to an extreme                                                            
level and that, again, "moderation is the key."                                                                                 
Mr. Smith  continued that,  as chair of the  Southeast Alaska  State                                                            
Science Fair,  which is one of only  two science fairs conducted  in                                                            
the State, he spoke in  support of retaining rather than eliminating                                                            
the Department  of Environmental Conservation  laboratory  in Juneau                                                            
as it  provides equipment  support annually  to the student  science                                                            
fair  projects. He  stated  that contrary  to  Governor Murkowski's                                                             
explanation that the laboratory  provides "redundant" equipment; the                                                            
equipment  is not  redundant  to students  in Southeast  Alaska.  He                                                            
noted that without the  support of this facility, the Juneau science                                                            
fair winners  would not be able to  compete and win at the  national                                                            
science fair as they have done in the past.                                                                                     
ANDREA DOLL, Teacher,  stated that she is testifying  out of concern                                                            
for the State's  youth, its values, and its expenditures.  She urged                                                            
the Committee  to not "take services from those who  already have so                                                            
little and who need them  the most," particularly the State's youth.                                                            
She shared  that, in her  teaching experience,  she has worked  with                                                            
youth who have  grown up without a  parent to pick their  pre-school                                                            
or to help them  with their homework or to read to  them and provide                                                            
other guidance. She stated  that, while the State, like individuals,                                                            
must make decisions  regarding where to spend its  money, she voiced                                                            
that the  State should  spend  its money  to save the  youth of  the                                                            
State rather than  to put them in places such as "detention  centers                                                            
to contain them."  She voiced confidence that the  Legislature would                                                            
provide support  to youth that would  assist them in finding  "their                                                            
rightful future." She voiced  strong support for a State income tax.                                                            
BOB BRIGGS,  Staff Attorney, Disability  Law Center, accompanied  by                                                            
his  stepdaughter,   ALANA  DULUSKI,  distributed   a  copy  of  the                                                            
testimony  [copy on file]  that he  had presented  on behalf  of the                                                            
Disability Law Center before  the House of Representative in support                                                            
of  funding for  Independent  Living  Centers  (ILC).  He urged  the                                                            
Committee to increase  the proposed funding levels  for the ILC and,                                                            
in addition,  he requested  that the program  be transferred  to the                                                            
Department  of   Health  and  Social  Services  and   that  the  ILC                                                            
coordinator position be funded.                                                                                                 
Mr.  Briggs  urged the  Committee,  on  behalf  of himself  and  his                                                            
family,  to fund the  Alyeska Central  School and  "to consider  the                                                            
human impact  of its  closure." He  stated that  Alaska has  several                                                            
very small  schools with limited teaching  staff, and he  questioned                                                            
the  desire to  eliminate  ACS's "very  qualified  teaching  staff,"                                                            
particularly  in light  of recently  enacted federal  No Child  Left                                                            
Behind Act. He  declared that the Legislators are  "the champions of                                                            
education," and as the  policy makers of the State, he urged them to                                                            
persuade  the Governor  to not  follow  through on  his proposal  to                                                            
eliminate ACS.                                                                                                                  
Mr. Briggs suggested the  following program funding mechanisms: that                                                            
the ILC be awarded  half of a percent of the savings  generated from                                                            
allowing people to live  independently rather than in nursing homes;                                                            
that a percentage  of the funding allocated to a school  district be                                                            
awarded to  ACS for each child enrolled  in ACS from that  district;                                                            
and that an income tax  and the Permanent Fund be used to fund State                                                            
government rather than  imposing higher gasoline taxes or other user                                                            
taxes  that might  disproportionately  affect low  and fixed  income                                                            
LISA   HOFERKAMP,   Chemistry  Professor,   University   of   Alaska                                                            
Southeast,  urged for continued funding  of the State Laboratory  in                                                            
Juneau as the  facility and staff provide "critical"  and "integral"                                                            
support  to  the  environmental  science  programs  offered  by  the                                                            
University.  She stated  that the  laboratory  and its professional                                                             
staff are an asset  to the University, and its closure  would hinder                                                            
State  and University  efforts.  She  noted that  the environmental                                                             
science program  is very popular and attracts numerous  out-of-state                                                            
PEGGY COWAN, Superintendent,  Juneau School District,  supported Mr.                                                            
Peterson's and  Mr. Wheeler's comments in support  of education. She                                                            
declared  that  teachers and  support  staff  work hard  to  provide                                                            
students with  a quality education,  and that reduced funding  would                                                            
negatively  affect these  efforts.  In addition,  she characterized                                                             
flat funding  as a decrease in funding  due to the district's  fixed                                                            
expenses  such  as the  recent  300 percent  increase  in  insurance                                                            
premiums.  She stated  that the  Governor's proposed  budget  "would                                                            
cripple" the district's  ability to do its job and provide a quality                                                            
education  system  as mandated  in  the  State's  Constitution.  She                                                            
stated  that  the  Juneau  Board of  Education  is  urging  for:  an                                                            
increase in the base student  foundation funding formula in order to                                                            
protect the purchasing  power of the educational dollar;  to restore                                                            
pupil transportation  funding  as reductions  in this funding  would                                                            
result in fewer  teachers rather than  in savings in transportation                                                             
expenses;  and  for the  restoration  of  the  learning opportunity                                                             
grants which  are used to  assist students  who are not meeting  the                                                            
State's  mandated  standards.   She  also  voiced  support  for  the                                                            
restoration  of  the full  level  of bond  debt  reimbursement,  and                                                            
voiced   support  for  the   continuation   of  the  Department   of                                                            
Environmental  Conservation   laboratory,  as  it  is  part  of  the                                                            
district's student support system.                                                                                              
Senator Hoffman asked the  testifier for funding option suggestions.                                                            
Ms. Cowan  voiced that  a balanced approach  should be implemented,                                                             
and in  support of such,  a State income  tax should be considered,                                                             
"as it is the most fair."  She also noted that other revenue sources                                                            
should be identified.                                                                                                           
Senator  Bunde  commented  that there  are  those who  believe  that                                                            
parents' Permanent  Fund Dividend (PFD) checks could  be retained to                                                            
support the high cost of education.                                                                                             
Senator  Taylor inquired  as to  whether the  300-percent  insurance                                                            
increase  is  the   amount  charged  through  the  Joint   Insurance                                                            
Agreement pool or through a private insurance carrier.                                                                          
SFC 03 # 58, Side A 09:05 PM                                                                                                    
Ms. Cowan responded that she is unsure.                                                                                         
Senator Taylor asked the  Superintendent to provide him with further                                                            
information regarding school insurance fees.                                                                                    
CATHY CONNOR,  Geology Professor,  University  of Alaska  Southeast,                                                            
informed  the  Committee that  the  University  "already"  generates                                                            
money  from logging  that  is  conducted  on University  lands.  She                                                            
stated that  these funds  once supported  program research,  but now                                                            
support  the  Alaska  Scholars  program  which  helps  keep  Alaskan                                                            
students  in the  State. In  addition,  she noted  that the  tuition                                                            
generated  by attracting  more  in-state and  out-of-state  students                                                            
provides  funds to the University.  She voiced  support for  a State                                                            
income  tax,  and  she  also  suggested  that  communities  such  as                                                            
Anchorage incorporate local  sales taxes. She stated that currently,                                                            
the University  is playing  "a shell game"  with its financing.  She                                                            
also urged  for the  continued funding  of the  State Laboratory  in                                                            
Juneau  as the  science programs  at the  University  depend on  the                                                            
facility to support a variety of programs.                                                                                      
TOBIN COATE,  Student, University  of Alaska Southeast, voiced  that                                                            
he supports  resource  development  and, he stressed  that  Alaskans                                                            
should manage those resources.  He shared his family's education and                                                            
work  history,  and  he  urged  the  Committee  to  fully  fund  the                                                            
University in order to retain and attract students to the State.                                                                
JEANNE FOY,  Teacher, Alyeska  Central School,  stated that  closing                                                            
this correspondence  program  would  not save the  State money.  She                                                            
noted that while  eleven school districts offer Statewide  education                                                            
programs,  they differ  from ACS  in that they  provide home-school                                                             
support  programs. She  stated that  elimination  of ACS would  deny                                                            
Alaskan families a choice of educational programs.                                                                              
Co-Chair  Wilken asked Ms.  Foy to provide  his office with  a short                                                            
explanation regarding the  meaning of accreditation as it applies to                                                            
ACS,  as  he  noted   that  Legislators  might  benefit   from  this                                                            
Senator Hoffman asked for  suggestions regarding how to fund the ACS                                                            
Ms. Foy reiterated  that the State would not be saving  any money as                                                            
the  State's  student   foundation  formula  funding   "follows  the                                                            
student,"  and therefore,  were ACS  eliminated,  the funding  would                                                            
shift to  whatever district  the student  enrolled in. She  attested                                                            
that correspondence  and home  school programs  cost the State  less                                                            
money per student  as these programs  are allocated a lesser  amount                                                            
than that allotted  to brick and mortar schools. She  furthered that                                                            
were the Department  of Education and Early Development  to fund the                                                            
statewide home school support  programs in the manner that they fund                                                            
the ACS program,  nine million dollars  would be saved on  an annual                                                            
JIM  DOUGLAS,   Professor,  University   of  Alaska  Fairbanks   and                                                            
Southeast  Alaska   and  Kodiak  4-H  Agent,  and  the  Cooperative                                                             
Extension  Service  Program  Agent,   informed  the  Committee  that                                                            
because  of reduced  funding over  the years,  numerous Cooperative                                                             
Extension  Service instructors  have  been laid off,  and he  stated                                                            
that the  State cannot  afford this  "brain drain"  to continue.  He                                                            
stated that  inadequate funding  is harmful  in that these  programs                                                            
lose  a  vast amount  of  pertinent  information  when  staffing  is                                                            
CECILEA MILLER,  Teacher, Alyeska Central School,  affirmed that the                                                            
base student foundation  formula funding travels with the student to                                                            
whatever  State education  program a student  enrolls in. She  urged                                                            
the Committee  to adequately  fund K-12  education, including  pupil                                                            
transportation  and the school bond  debt reimbursement program.  In                                                            
addition, she  questioned Legislative action regarding  the increase                                                            
in University tuition fees,  as she understood that an agreement was                                                            
in  place  whereby  the  State  "would   split  the  cost  that  the                                                            
University  needed for  funding," whereby  half would  be raised  by                                                            
tuition  and   the  other  half  would   be  provided  through   the                                                            
Legislature. In conclusion,  she stated that the following week, she                                                            
would  be attending  a seminar  regarding school  accreditation  and                                                            
that  upon  her  return,  she  would  be  happy   to  share  updated                                                            
information with the Committee.                                                                                                 
Senator  Taylor   voiced  that,  no   matter  what  type   of  State                                                            
correspondence  program  a student  enrolled  in, the  base  student                                                            
foundation  formula funding  would equal  80-percent of traditional                                                             
school funding.  However, he continued, that the costs  to the State                                                            
would be five-fold  were those same students to enroll  in a school,                                                            
for example, in Bethel.                                                                                                         
Ms.  Miller   voiced   that  this   was  also   her  understanding.                                                             
Furthermore, she  stated that correspondence programs,  such as ACS,                                                            
provide  learning opportunities  to students  with health issues  or                                                            
who  are  traveling,  in addition  to  allowing  other  students  an                                                            
opportunity  to transition  back to a brick  and mortar school.  She                                                            
concurred that  elimination of the ACS summer program  would provide                                                            
savings to the State.                                                                                                           
Senator  Hoffman asked  for suggestions  as to how  the State  could                                                            
address its fiscal gap.                                                                                                         
Ms. Miller  responded that her sister,  who is a teacher  in Kansas,                                                            
has no  sympathy  for the  State's financial  crisis  as the  sister                                                            
contends  that  the  State  has money  as  attested  by  its  annual                                                            
Permanent Fund  Dividend disbursements and the fact  that the State,                                                            
unlike  the State  of Kansas,  has no  income tax,  property tax  or                                                            
sales tax  legislation. Ms.  Miller stated  that perhaps it  is time                                                            
for the citizens of the State to pay for what they need.                                                                        
Co-Chair Wilken asked the  testifier to work with Ms. Foy to provide                                                            
an explanation,  in layman's terms, as to what accreditation  is and                                                            
what graduating  from an  accredited program  means to a  graduating                                                            
student.   He  stated  that   this  information   would  assist   in                                                            
determining  whether elimination  of  the summer  program might,  in                                                            
effect, might  allow for the continuance of the regular  school year                                                            
correspondence  program and provide the Legislature  with sufficient                                                            
information as to whether  the ACS program be allowed to operate one                                                            
more year to provide a transitional period of time.                                                                             
Ms. Miller informed  the Committee that she would  soon be attending                                                            
a  distance  accreditation  seminar  and  would be  able  to  supply                                                            
appropriate information upon her return.                                                                                        
MICHELLE  AKERS,   Student  and  Employee,   University   of  Alaska                                                            
Southeast, Employee, National  Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration                                                            
(NOAA),  and  Employee,  Department  of Environmental  Conservation                                                             
Laboratory, urged  the Committee to adequately fund  the University.                                                            
She also besieged  that the Committee  continue operating  the State                                                            
laboratory  in Juneau, as  the facility is  crucial to NOAA  and the                                                            
Department of Environmental  Conservation research as well as to the                                                            
environmental science and  other programs offered at the University.                                                            
CHARLES  LINDLEY, Student,  University of  Alaska Southeast,  stated                                                            
that he is  an out-of-state, full-tuition  student from Georgia  who                                                            
is studying  environmental science.  He stated that he has  "found a                                                            
home up here,"  and he thanked the  Legislature for the opportunity                                                             
to live and receive a quality education in Alaska.                                                                              
JEREMIAH CRAIG,  Student, University  of Alaska Southeast  urged for                                                            
full  funding for  the University  system.  He stressed  that it  is                                                            
imperative that  this support continue as he opined  that being able                                                            
to provide  an education to  local people,  who want to live  in the                                                            
State, is the key to growing a strong State.                                                                                    
The bills were HELD in Committee.                                                                                               

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