Governor, House leave tax talk to another legislature
For the last three years, Gov. Bill Walker has advocated for an income tax as a way to reduce state dependence on oil revenue.
Walker wasn't the only one. Last year, the Alaska House Majority called the measure a pillar of its budget plan. But now, both House leadership and the governor are leaving talk of an income tax up to another legislature.
"We're here today to tell you that we follow through on our plan," House Speaker Bryce Edgmon told reporters at a press conference last year, just two days after the legislative session was supposed to have ended, according to state law.
The plan was a four-pillar plan that included not just use of the permanent fund's earnings -- known as a POMV draw -- but also an income tax.
"I want to make this perfectly clear, that if the Senate thinks that we are going to get out of here, with just a POMV, they got another thing coming," House Rules Chair Gabrielle LeDoux interrupted the April 18, 2017 press conference to say.
But just a POMV is eventually what happened.
Edgmon and his entire caucus fought for a tax through four special sessions last year.
"If we did just the restructuring of the permanent fund, the village elder contributes the same amount as the affluent business member in Anchorage does, and we don't think that's fair," Edgmon said at the time.
The House Majority continually butted heads with the Senate on the issue.
"To think that Alaska needs a broad-based tax is to be willfully ignorant of the facts, Alaska doesn't need it," Senate President Pete Kelly told KTVA in an April 2017 interview.
Gov. Bill Walker disagreed with Kelly at the time, joining with the House in a continued call for a tax.
"I am of strong belief that we need a broad-based tax to close this deficit," Walker said at a press conference on April 18, 2017.
When asked earlier this week whether that's still the case, Walker replied, "it may be".
This year, the governor, House and Senate have all agreed to leave Juneau for good -- this time, on time and without a tax.
"If, of our four pillars, we were able to get a drawdown of the permanent fund, as part of one of those four pillars, I think most would agree that that was a pretty big lift in itself," Edgmon said in an interview Tuesday. "Oil prices have been going up right now, we still have a little bit of cushion in our main savings account."
"We have to wait and see, you don't want to anticipate what the oil prices are going to be. The beauty of it now is that we're not nearly as dependent on the price of oil," Walker said Tuesday.
Time will tell whether a tax proposal makes its way back to lawmakers' desks, but the urgency for one has left the capitol building.
Walker says he will not call any special sessions on budget issues this year. The governor's seat and all forty House seats are up for election this fall.
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