Parks and the Permanent Fund
Dear Neighbor,

It has been a busy week in Anchorage and in Juneau. Here's an update on the budget, Permanent Fund, and efforts to clean up our parks and keep Anchorage safe:
House Passes Final Budget:
Yesterday the House passed a budget with a large surplus, and a commitment to address the PFD in separate legislation. I was very happy to vote for this budget, which protects many priorities for which you advocated:
  • Office of Public Advocacy funding to protect foster kids and elders from abuse.
  • Ocean Ranger funding to keep our waters safe from illegal pollution.
  • Alaska Legal Services Corporation funding to help domestic violence survivors protect themselves and their children.
  • School bond debt reimbursement funding, preventing what would have otherwise been large tax hikes on Anchorage business and home owners.
  • Additional Pioneer Home funding to protect one of our most revered institutions.
  • Funding for Alaska Public Media.
  • Minimal cuts to the University of Alaska.
We owe a debt of gratitude to budget co-chairs and subcommittee co-chairs who worked tirelessly in the public interest, including but not limited to Finance Co-Chairmen Neal Foster and Tammie Wilson, and Finance members Jennifer Johnston, Dan Ortiz, Gary Knopp, and Andy Josephson, who co-chaired Finance subcommittees of which I was a member.
Save the Permanent Fund:
Alaska does not have a fiscal crisis-- Mike Dunleavy has tried to invent one in order to destroy public institutions and our economy. The only way we would have a fiscal crisis is by paying out massive dividends that drain the Permanent Fund itself.

As you know, the Permanent Fund is not a bottomless ATM. When we make massive, unsustainable draws from it, the Fund has less capital to generate investment earnings. So the more we drain the Permanent Fund, the more we lock ourselves into a fiscal death spiral of ever-smaller PFDs and ever-larger budget deficits. For this reason, I strongly oppose the Dunleavy position of massive PFDs and no new revenue--that's a recipe for draining the Permanent Fund and violating the commitment voters and the legislature made when they established the Permanent Fund in the Constitution. The good news is that many legislators recognize the importance of protecting the Permanent Fund, whether through more modest PFDs or with more revenue. Regardless of the route we take, we must protect the Permanent Fund itself because it is Alaska's savings account and the earnings on that $65 billion are essential for our state's economic prosperity in the future.
Take Back Our Parks:
Who knew? I never would have thought a fairly simple letter asking the city to use its full legal authority to clear encampments in our greenbelt parks would generate such attention. You'll find text of the letter here --please read it and share your thoughts with me. I continue to believe the city must clear encampments as efficiently and quickly as possible, and that requires discarding the Sullivan administration's unworkable post-and-wait policy. At the same time, this is clearly one piece of a complex and interrelated set of issues. I strongly support housing for homeless people in need who are seeking housing. Many legislators including me are advocating for capital budget funding for addiction treatment. We all worked together to pass legislation strengthening re-entry programs. Most of us recognize the urgency of comprehensively strengthening addiction treatment policies and programs next session. I've written op-eds and publicized legislative legal reports to help defend Medicaid health insurance, which is the top source of addiction treatment funding. So yes, encampments in our greenbelts are one manifestation of a complex set of problems embedded in the opioid epidemic. While we seek to address both root causes and manifestations of the opioid epidemic and related crime wave, I'll continue to support rapid and efficient abatement of camps. That is one policy that is 100% a municipal decision, where the buck stops with the Mayor. Excuses don't cut it.

On a related subject, many thanks to the volunteers including project organizer Hans Thompson, who have been clearing invasive Bird Cherry from Chester Creek parklands. Improving sight distance in the trail corridor is good for public safety, and removing this invasive species is good for local ecosystems.
Bipartisan Letter Supporting Re-Entry:
Thanks to Senators Begich and Gray-Jackson, and Representatives Josephson, LeDoux, Tarr, Spohnholz, and Drummond, with whom I signed a letter of support for Partners Reentry Center's grant renewal with the Department of Corrections. Partners Reentry Center has an incredible track record of success helping Alaskans find employment, housing, and medical care after leaving incarceration. These kinds of services are essential for reducing crime.
Congratulations Sheraton workers:
Congratulations to Sheraton workers, Unite HERE Local 878, and thanks to the Sheraton for agreeing to a contract and ending a 12 year labor dispute.
I have boycotted the Sheraton during this dispute, and it was great to walk into the hotel knowing that employees finally have a safe working environment in which their rights are recognized.
Unfortunately, the Anchorage Hilton, which is owned by a bottom-feeder Outside company, continues to engage in illegal union busting activities and has flagrantly unsafe working conditions. I won't enter the Hilton until and unless it finally recognizes employees' rights and negotiates a contract.
Many people were involved with this struggle, but employees deserve particular thanks for their incredible strength to earn a living wage and safe working conditions.
Meetings with Local Businesses:
I've had the opportunity to visit and discuss policy issues with many business owners recently, including owners of the Lucky Wishbone, Big Ray's, Wild Scoops, PIP Printing, Cupples Cottages, and others. I am very grateful to all the downtown and nearby business owners who put their hearts and souls into our neighborhoods and economy, including through this tough recession from which we're starting to recover.  
I hope to see you around the neighborhood soon,
Zack
Around the District
Thanks to local business and property owners in East Downtown for meeting regarding public safety and development in the 3rd and 4th Ave corridor. 
It's great to see business investment in this area and I support their efforts to improve public safety.
Congratulations to Best Beginnings for your 40th anniversary. This is an incredible program and thanks to Abbe Hensley and many other Alaskans for your work!
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