Debate on state’s budget continues
Amendments to the state’s 2016 operating budget were debated for most of Thursday, with the House adjourning around 10:30 p.m. without a vote.
The House took up the budget bill, CS House Bill 2001, after Republican leadership offered a budget deal Wednesday that would restore $16.5 million to the Base Student Allocation and also honors state employee contracts, while requiring Gov. Bill Walker’s administration to cut an additional $30 million.
House Democrats made every effort to restore an additional $32 million in one-time education funding, along with $7 million to the University of Alaska system, but both amendments failed.
“Some of us believe that children should not be part of the suffering equation,” said Rep. Andy Josephson, speaking on the House floor. “They didn’t create this deficit, they are not taxpayers, they don’t have any say in this budget predicament.”
Another amendment offered by Rep. Les Gara would have used around $2 million in state money to fund more caseworkers in the Office of Children’s Services. Gara says the money is available because the federal government is offering to fund a certain program within OCS, freeing up $2 million. The idea didn’t go over well with the House Majority.
“It’s an awful thing, the world is a horrible place sometimes,” Rep. Dan Saddler said in opposition to the amendment. “We can’t save everyone, and we can’t spend enough to stop every bad thing that happens.”
Another amendment offered by Democrats was a plan to delay $200 million in tax credits to oil and gas companies, and use some of the money to help pay for education and senior benefits. Democrats acknowledged that the credits will have to be paid in the future, but say state law allows the delay. That idea did not go over well with Republicans.
“You don’t put off your credit card bill and consider that a savings,” said Rep. Lance Pruitt. “You still owe it, so no matter what, we need to make sure that we are very clear in this discussion and indicate that this is not a desire to save money, it is a desire to hold off paying for that.”
Medicaid expansion held up proceedings late Thursday, with Democrats making one last effort to amend the budget to allow for expansion.
The budget debate will resume Friday afternoon.
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