Senate asks House to narrow focus on Day 87 of session
Lawmakers in Juneau will not make their 90-day deadline on Sunday, April 16. Work on a budget plan will stretch on, and the state will spend tens of thousands of dollars each day it does.
There was little movement toward that end on Thursday, day 87 of the legislative session. The last big-ticket budget bill left in the House is its income tax proposal, House Bill 115. The House could have taken a vote on the measure, but leadership chose not to. The bill appears to be struggling for support. Finding compromise on that measure and a change to oil tax credits will have lawmakers working overtime this year.
Acknowledging that legislators won’t finish work on time, Senate President Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks) sent a letter to House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham), asking him to narrow the legislature’s focus.
“We believe we must act to define the scope of legislative work if we are to proceed beyond Day 90,” Kelly wrote. “Consideration of a range of other legislative issues is a distraction from a timely resolution to our fiscal problems.”
Kelly suggests that beyond budget pieces, the legislature focus only on key bills, like those related to the Real ID Act, public safety and the state’s opioid epidemic.
Republicans in the House sent a similar letter.
Majority Leader Chris Tuck said the House plans to continue committee work until the House and Senate reach compromise on a long-term fiscal plan.
“Everybody wants to go home, but at the same time, if we’re called into session, let’s get some other things done at the same time,” said Tuck in a interview last week. “It’s typical for legislatures all across the world to be working on multiple issues all at the same time. There’s no reason why we can’t do that.”
As the countdown in Juneau continues, there is no clear path home.
“Obviously, I told all of our members to secure some housing, we’re going to be here for a while,” Minority Leader Charisse Millett (R-Anchorage) said in a press conference Thursday morning.
Millett says she has only arranged housing through the 110th day of session.
“I’ll be sleeping in my office after that,” she said.
Democrat-lead leadership in the House says it is not willing to walk away without getting what it wants this year, but beyond a 4-pillar fiscal plan, it hasn’t identified other must-have measures.
“As far as must-haves, I’m not sure that we have anything that’s really a must-have, just things that we want to see changed, things that we want to see happen,” said Majority Leader Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage), at a press conference earlier this month.
Kelly was asked whether the Senate might consider walking away without a long-term budget plan if the House and Senate can’t find compromise.
“That sounds like a threat that one of us might hurl, but we’re not doing that at this time, and it’s too soon to say that,” Kelly replied.
At a press conference Thursday morning, Kelly said he thinks the House and Senate can reach compromise on a budget plan before the 121-day deadline specified in the Alaska Constitution.
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