House still stalled on operating budget
One day after the House narrowly passed a Permanent Fund Dividend of about $2,700, the House is no closer to approving an operating budget.
On Tuesday, the House spent much of the day in recess before adjourning for the day early evening. Even after passing a fully-funded dividend, the House remains at an impasse over the amount. The 21-19 vote did not fall along caucus lines the way most budget votes do.
Some members of the Democratic-led majority believe that sum is too high and aren’t willing to support the budget with that dividend.
“I honestly didn’t think it was going to pass,” said Adam Wool, (D-Fairbanks), who serves in the majority caucus and voted against it. “I was hoping it wouldn’t.”
There have been several dividend amendments offered. House Finance co-chair Paul Seaton offered one amendment to pay a $1,600 dividend. That offering failed, 21-18.
Two years ago, Gov. Bill Walker cut the dividend to $1,022, and last year, the Legislature approved a $1,100 payout, which Walker supported.
On Monday, Rep. David Eastman offered separate amendments to restore the balance of the 2016 and 2017 payouts. Both failed. There are still a handful of amendments, mostly related to the dividend.
Rep. Chris Birch (R-Anchorage) said he would like for the House to get a budget to the Senate soon, as the Legislature enters its seventy-second day.
“Even if we had just taken the governor’s budget and move it over, that could have happened fairly early on,” he said. “It is a concern now.”
Birch, who voted no on the $2,7000 dividend, said the budget is unsustainable.
“We are unrealistically raising expectations,” said Birch, who added he prefers Walker’s dividend proposal of $1,200. “It’s at a time when we all recognize that we have some fiscal situations to deal with.”
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