Friday is the end of a special session in Juneau, and lawmakers have not passed an operating budget to keep state services running past July 1.

At this point, passage of a budget is possible, but procedurally difficult because lawmakers must have the bill on their desks for 24 hours before taking a vote — and that timeframe has already passed. Still, legislators could vote to waive that rule.

“But that would mean that our conference committees would be meeting now negotiating and agreeing,” said House Minority Leader Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage), in an interview Thursday afternoon. “There’s so much open in the operating budget conference committee right now, it literally would take a miracle. But you know, miracle’s happen. So, I’m optimistic. You know, we’re here, we’re ready. The House Majority and the Senate Majority know what the House Republicans need to get out of here.”

The House was scheduled to meet in a floor session Thursday morning, but it was delayed into the evening as leadership negotiated behind closed doors. If lawmakers don’t pass a budget by the end of the month, government would shut down for the first time in state history.

In a statement to the press Thursday afternoon, Senate President Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks) said he believes lawmakers could move quickly if a deal is reached.

“I think there’s been some progress made. I’m very encouraged at the progress that’s being made. The highest priority we have in the Senate is to avoid a government shutdown– and that means we have to pass an operating budget,” Kelly said.

House leadership declined KTVA’s request for an interview Thursday, but House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham) told reporters Wednesday evening that his caucus would stand strong on its call for new revenue this year, such as a broad-based tax or increased oil taxes.

“We want to get a responsible budget in place this year, we do not want a shutdown– but, we also do not want to be back in this situation again next year,” Edgmon said. “We’ve talked consistently about having to do what’s right for today but also look down the road because again, we can’t continue draining our savings and being back in a situation where our schools and our troopers and everything else are at jeopardy of being cut out of the budget. We just find that unacceptable.”

Lawmakers have yet to pass any of the bills on the special session agenda. Both legislative bodies have indicated that combating the state’s opioid epidemic is a top priority this year. The House Majority has postponed a vote, several times, on a bill by Gov. Bill Walker on that issue.

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