After the House passed their budget bill (House Bill 256) Thursday, the Senate passed its own version of the budget Monday afternoon.

The Senate said its budget cuts $335 million. It includes a big difference in funding for the University of Alaska — one of the items to be worked out by a conference committee, to include members from both bodies. Where the House proposed $50 million in cuts to the university system, the Senate proposed just $25 million.

The Senate also included $4 million in funding for office space in Anchorage, the amount of the Anchorage Legislative Information Office lease. It became a point of debate on the Senate floor Monday, when the minority introduced an amendment to remove the funding altogether from the budget.

“I don’t know a single legislator who wants to remain in that particular facility,” said Sen. Anna Mackinnon, who called the money a placeholder to likely cover rent at two places while the Legislature prepares to move office space. “The Anchorage LIO is a place we’re trying to leave.”

Mackinnon is a member of the Legislative Council, which approved $35,000 in spending to hire an independent counsel to review the Legislature’s options to move from the downtown Anchorage building.

The council’s report was due by March 14, but has not been made public.

The Senate majority will meet with press Tuesday morning to discuss its changes to the budget.

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