Republicans Take Control of State Senate
New majority doesn't mean quick approval of governor's oil tax plan
ANCHORAGE - After six years of a bipartisan coalition in the state Senate, Republicans have assumed control of the Legislature's upper chamber.
That’s the main outcome in yesterday's Alaska elections and an organizational meeting held Wednesday afternoon, and it could have a bearing on reform of the oil production tax known as ACES.
The election broke a 10-10 tie among Republicans and Democrats.
Republicans now will have a majority of at least 13 to 7, and even have an outside chance of making the margin 14 to 6, depending upon how absentee ballots break in one race.
Late this afternoon, new Senate President Charlie Huggins of Wasilla and new Majority Leader John Coghill of North Pole announced the new majority caucus.
"This is about representing the people of Alaska,” Huggins said. “We represent the people -- these people right here -- they represent the values that Alaskans feel are important and they are in the majority."
For two of the most prominent Republicans in the state, the defeat of a few Democrats in the Senate bipartisan coalition was a major victory.
Said Governor Sean Parnell: "I think that bodes well for Alaska and economic opportunity. We’re going to work to strengthen this economy."
"We will have 14 Republican senators to work together with our governor,” said state Republican Chairman Randy Ruedrich. “And I think that will produce substantial differences, hopefully much better legislation to create opportunities for all Alaskans." When asked, "Is one party government good for Alaska?", he replied, "One party government to get something done for Alaska is wonderful."
But that does not necessarily mean quick approval of Parnell’s plan to cut oil production taxes by up to $2 billion a year.
"I think we all need to work together, so i'm not sure about the coalition being dead,” said Senator-elect Anna Fairclough, R-Eagle River, on election night. “I know that certainly everyone that was involved last time -- there are new players now at the table -- and I look forward to working with everyone, whether they're part of a coalition or not. Other people's opinions need to be respected. We need to hear them."
Current Senate Finance Co-Chair Bert Stedman, who is not yet part of the majority caucus, said, "So I don't know with that complex a subject we're going to be able to get it done in 90 days, or my guess over this next legislative cycle, which would be two years. We have a lot of new members that need to be spun up on the technicalities of the issue, so they know what they're voting on."
The balance of power has shifted, but how much remains to be seen.
Other leadership positions announced:
Lesil McGuire will be Senate Rules chair. The new co-chairs of finance will be Senator-elect Pete Kelly of Fairbanks, who held that position 10 years ago, and Kevin Meyer of Anchorage.
The Republican majority was made possible with the defeat of Democrats Bettye Davis of Anchorage, and Joe Paskvan and Joe Thomas of Fairbanks. Also, Stedman defeated fellow coalition member Albert Kookesh, a Democrat from Angoon.
Huggins says he expects Stedman and current Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, to join the caucus, potentially along with an unspecified number of the seven Democrats.
Meanwhile, Republicans retained control of the House.