From Anchorage, Gov. Walker urges lawmakers back to Juneau
Gov. Bill Walker is urging Alaska legislators to return to work in Juneau and pass a long-term budget plan this year. Walker delivered the message at a press conference Monday afternoon in Anchorage.
Lawmakers originally aimed to strike a deal on oil tax credits by Monday, but, their timeframe has been pushed back to later this week as the House and Senate struggle to reach an agreement on the legislation, House Bill 111. The measure is the only item on the agenda, as lawmakers creep toward the end of a second special session Saturday.
While there’s just a handful of lawmakers involved in the negotiations, most of them are not in the capitol city.
As Congress returned to the nation’s capitol Monday for work after the Fourth of July holiday, most state lawmakers stayed home– away from Juneau.
Rep. David Talerico (R-Healy) is the only member of the HB 111 conference committee in the Capitol building.
“Kind of as a signal that I’m ready to go, ready to get things started, ready to go to work. So, we’re ready to do that. And, I’m kind of anxious to get that done. So, that’s really why I headed down,” Talerico said in an interview Monday.
In the House majority caucus, only Juneau-based lawmakers are in their offices.
“My understanding is we’re looking at trying to bring either the whole House or the whole Senate [back] if we can get to a point where we’ve got agreement by Wednesday or Thursday of this week,” said Rep. Sam Kito III (D-Juneau).
Even Walker, who called the special session, is in Anchorage. From there, he’s calling on lawmakers to return to work in Juneau.
“My message is ‘Let’s finish the job’, and ‘Let’s do it this year. Let’s make sure it’s done this year,” Walker said.
Senate leadership held a technical session in the capitol city Monday afternoon.
“The fact is we’re working all the time, and it isn’t always best to be here just going through the motions. Sometimes you have to do some strategic things, and that’s what we’ve been involved in to make sure that we get rid of these cash payments to oil companies,” said Senate President Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks).
All parties seem to agree on ending cash credits to oil companies, but, it will likely take more than that to end work this year.
“That alone doesn’t fix it. That’s one piece of multiple pieces. But you gotta have each piece in place before the next one comes along,” Walker told reporters, repeating his call for a long-term budget plan, including some form of a broad-based tax.
Last year, Walker put all pieces of his fiscal plan on the table at the same time, which he says was too many. Now, he’ll ask lawmakers to take them up one at a time.
“They seem to be clicking along with one at a time,” Walker said of legislative progress. “Our plan is to, you know, this session will end next Saturday, I believe, and we hope that what’s on there now will be out of the way. And we’ll confer and decide what makes the most sense as far as the next thing we put in front of them if that’s what we decide to do.”
After 175 days in session, lawmakers may end up in several more this year.
Kelly, Talerico and Kito all praised Walker for his narrowed approach on legislation this special session.
Lawmakers have yet to pass a capital budget to access federal funding for state projects. Walker was vague about a deadline for passage of the measure Monday, but said the state Office of Management and Budget is monitoring the federal deadline closely. OMB director, Pat Pitney, told KTVA it’s best the capital budget bill pass this month.
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