Alaska Senate squashes motion to meet with House, override PFD veto
The Alaska Legislature met Monday for the first time since Gov. Bill Walker announced he’s reducing this year’s Permanent Fund Dividend checks to $1,000. Despite a motion for a meeting to try to override the cut, lawmakers are unlikely to reverse the governor’s action.
Sen. Bill Wielechowksi, D-Anchorage, who is considering a lawsuit over the governor’s action on the PFD, called Monday for a joint session of the House and Senate to vote on the issue. Acting as Senate president, Sen. John Coghill, R-North Pole, ruled Wielechowski out of order, saying that traditionally the House makes that motion.
Coghill’s ruling, Wielechowski says, effectively squashes the possibility of an override because the Senate has adjourned until Friday, the last chance within the five-day legal limit in which the Legislature can overturn a governor’s veto. But most senators are headed to Anchorage for the week for committee hearings.
“I think this probably effectively kills an opportunity for the Legislature to get together and discuss overriding the governor’s veto,” Wielechowski said.
House Speaker Mike Chenault said his body is still trying to decide what to do about a possible override. He expects to know by Tuesday morning whether the House will motion to meet with the Senate on the matter. If it does, he said he’ll push to look at all of the governor’s budget vetoes, not just his cut to the PFD.
Monday marked the start of the historic fifth special session. Never before has a single Legislature met this many times.
Walker called the current session after the Legislature refused to adopt pieces of his long-term plan to deal with the state’s unprecedented budget shortfall — despite a four-month-long regular session and one special session. Walker has called his proposal to draw from permanent fund earnings to cover state services the cornerstone of his fiscal plan.
But also on the agenda for the first time Monday is a 3 percent statewide sales tax, Senate Bill 5004, which would raise about $500 million annually. Walker has repeatedly called for a broad-based tax since unveiling his plan in December 2015, but until now, he had only introduced an income tax proposal. In a letter to lawmakers, Walker described the sales tax as “an alternative option for the legislature to consider in lieu of a proposed income tax.”
Walker’s income tax plan is on the special session call as well.
The governor introduced new legislation Monday on oil taxes, which target North Slope producers, after lawmakers passed legislation dealing with the Cook Inlet region last special session and setting a seven-year limit on a tax break for new oil.
The Walker administration estimates $125 million in savings by 2019 from the new oil tax proposal, which eliminates a company’s ability to deduct operating losses from future tax liability.
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