Operating budget drives push toward session's end
Lawmakers worked through the night toward a possible adjournment Saturday -- a hard push driven, in part, by the passage of the state’s operating budget.
On Thursday, negotiators from the House and Senate agreed on a $5.4 billion statewide spending plan known as unrestricted general funds.
That includes agency operations, debt and retirement payments, and a $1,600 Permanent Fund Dividend payout this fall.
The total budget, including federal contributions and other fund sources push the budget to $10.4 billion.
But it took two days before each chamber would vote on the compromise, HB286.
The Senate went first, overwhelmingly approving the budget 14-5.
“We can sit here all year,” said Senate Majority Leader Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna). “I think Alaskans want us out of here. That’s what we are trying to do: we are trying to get some common ground at the lowest cost possible.”
The House, however, had a slimmer approval margin – 21-19.
“This budget is responsible. It serves the needs of the people who live in this state,” said House Finance Committee Vice Chair Les Gara (D-Anchorage). “It would be very hard to make it much different without harming people in this state who are living on the edge.”
This is also the first year the state will use Permanent Fund earnings to fund the state’s budget.
The new plan uses 5.25 percent of the fund’s average value over the past five years.
This formula will be used toward state spending for the next three years.After that, the percentage falls to 5 percent.
The plan does not affect this year’s $1,600 dividend. Nor does the plan does not re-define how future dividend payouts get calculated.
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