The path to an approved budget goes through the Republican-led House minority, its leaders said Thursday in Juneau.

The Democratic-led House caucus holds a slim 22-18 majority, but for now it can’t get the necessary 21 votes to pass an operating budget.

Public talks stalled on Monday, however, when the House narrowly approved a $2,700 Permanent Fund dividend on a 21-19 vote.

Since then, the House has met just briefly, mostly taking care of formalities that come with each floor session.

Minority and majority members have now entered talks over how to get a budget to the Senate with less than three weeks to go in a 90-day session -- although the state constitution permits a 121-day session.

“In order to get our support for the budget, I believe they are going to have to come talk with us and we have started those conversations here in the last few days,” said House Minority Whip Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski), who also served as House speaker for eight years.

“I think we will get there,” Chenault said in the Republicans' weekly news conference. “There is going to have to be some compromise.”

So far, the House has added $19 million for the University of Alaska system, plus $1 million each for public defenders and fisheries management by the Department of Fish and Game.

House Minority Leader Charisse Millett said there is still plenty of room for cuts that don’t hurt public safety.

“We don’t want to do anything that would harm life, health and safety,” Millett said. “We’ve always said that."

On Thursday, the House met for an hour, then it went into an indefinite recess. Lawmakers have started catching flights home for the Easter holiday, so no progress on the budget is expected until Monday at the earliest.

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