While the House continued to work out budget differences with prolonged delays, the Senate unanimously approved a spending limit bill – but this, too, had its share of drama.

Upset at having proposed amendments ruled out of order by Senate President Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks), Minority Leader Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage) led her five-person Democratic minority caucus off the floor before the vote.

They never returned and the Republican-led majority approved the $4.1 billion budget spending limit, 13-0.

“I think we made a point,” Gardner said afterward. “What we’re doing is trying to prepare for future debates that we have a right to offer amendments related to the topic under discussion to have them heard and voted on.”

Kelly said in a statement, protests leave no record of an official vote.

“The way to protest a bill that you’ve tried and failed to amend is to vote no,” he said. “However, the way to avoid voting no on a bill that Alaskans overwhelmingly support is to stage a walkout.”

Just as it looked as though a vote would be taken, Gardner stood up and criticized the bill as disingenuous.

“With all due respect Mr. Chair, just because the chair says something is so and the caucus members are obligated to follow their leader does not make it so,” Garnder said before her Senate colleagues and immediately before leading fellow Democrats, Bill Wielechowski, Tom Begich, Donny Olson and Denis Egan.

The limit applies to the state’s unrestricted general fund with exceptions, including payments for the permanent fund dividend.

The bill moves on the house for review.

Last year, the House majority rejected a spending limit in a broader budget bill.

The House still has not passed an operating budget after four days of debate. Members of the majority are having trouble agreeing to how much of the Permanent Fund earnings will be used to cover the budget and how much will get devoted to the annual dividend most Alaskans receive each fall.

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