House budget debate nearing end of second week
House lawmakers were still searching for common ground on an operating budget Wednesday, but another day passed without a compromise.
The House met briefly before quickly adjourning so it could resume budget negotiations behind closed doors.
One burning issue: a proposed $2,700 Permanent Fund dividend that lawmakers approved two days ago by a single vote. The House has not held any public debate on the budget since.
The vote crossed party lines each way and immediately brought budget talks to a halt, creating division among the Democratic-led majority.
House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham) said he and his colleagues are still looking for a sweet spot for the dividend payout, which appears likely to shrink.
“I don’t reduce this to carping about majority/minority politics and being more part of the problem as opposed to part of the solution,” said in a brief news conference with reporters.
“I’m trying to find a way that we get an operating budget passed-- that we somehow find a consensus point between the many competing viewpoints-- not just on the budget itself but on the annual permanent fund dividend.”
House Minority Whip and former House Speaker of eight years Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski) said, reflecting on his Speaker tenure, getting a caucus aligned isn’t automatic.
“It’s never the easiest job being the leader because people look to you for direction and there are times where you reach a point where you try everything that you thought would work and you’ve got to just continue to go back to the well to get something that does work,” he said.
Edgmon offered no timetable for a resolution other than to say, “soon.” The House is scheduled to be on the floor again Thursday morning.
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