No budget deal in Juneau as some lawmakers head home
The House and Senate Republican-led majorities passed a resolution Thursday to recess until May 12. Gov. Bill Walker was less than impressed with the lawmakers who voted “yes,” but said he wouldn’t stop them from leaving.
“I am not going to take further action to preclude what they are doing. There are moves that I could take and moves that they could take,” Walker said Thursday afternoon. “I think they have made their wishes known and I’m not going to play that game.”
Senate Democrats, along with the House Minority, did not support the break, calling it a “vacation resolution.” But legislators who are part of the finance committees say they will continue working on the budget during the recess period, including holding meetings in Anchorage.
“We are not quitting, we are not gaveling out, we are going to take this to the public and get their information on it,” said Rep. Tammie Wilson.
Sen. Dennis Egan doesn’t agree with the idea of moving the session to Anchorage and challenged the notion that it’s necessary to reach more constituents.
“Alaska’s capital city is wired for Gavel to Gavel, that’s how Alaskans from Ketchikan to Barrow, Kotzebue to Kodiak see our committee hearings and our floor session, then they call on us, by phone or email,” Egan said.
On Wednesday, the governor agreed to allow Medicaid reform and expansion discussions to take place in a special session in Anchorage, but he requested legislators stay in Juneau to pass a fully funded budget.
“Once the politics is done, we are left to operate a state with a budget and right now, we don’t have that,” Walker said. “We have a budget that, I don’t really call it a budget, we have an expenditure document without the revenue side.”
The political impasse comes down to around $55 million in additional spending that the governor included in his new version of the budget Tuesday.
“We can do this, you guys, we can do this. Both sides are capable of compromise,” said Rep. Dan Ortiz on the House floor Thursday.
On Monday, the House passed a budget but could not reach the three-quarter vote to access the Constitutional Budget Reserve required to balance the budget.
“The governor was right on TV the other day. He said you guys are arguing about shifting numbers back and forth,” said Rep. Les Gara. “We are still out of money in two years. Unless you do something to raise revenue, you are just rearranging the chairs on the Titanic.”
The Senate passed a fully funded budget on Monday.
“We did finish our work, we got the vote in this body the only thing that remains undone is the desire for some people to put more money into the budget,” said Sen. Pete Kelly.
KTVA 11’s Emily Carlson spoke with former legislative aide Christopher Clark about the recent development:
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