Governor declares budget stalemate, lawmakers take a break
“It is clear that negotiations have reached a stalemate,” those were Governor Bill Walker’s words, released Friday, on the situation in Juneau.
Walker is now promising a compromise budget package after he said he would step in when layoff warnings went out to state employees.
In the meantime, lawmakers have taken a break until Tuesday, when both the House and Senate have scheduled technical floor sessions. Members of the Senate were advised by leadership not to return to Juneau until June 12.
Layoff warnings were sent to nearly 19,000 employees Thursday– in case lawmakers didn’t reach a budget deal by July 1.
“I think when we get to a point where we’re having to send out notifications to employees, I think that’s roughly when it would be time for me to step in,” Walker said at a May 18 press conference.
But, Walker didn’t take any new action when the notifications were sent. Instead, he released a statement in which he said leadership in the House and Senate had asked him for one more day.
“I have honored that request and will address tomorrow what they have accomplished,” Walker said in a press release Thursday.
Walker’s office did not respond to KTVA’s requests for clarity on the comment and declined multiple interview requests this week.
Members of both House and Senate leadership told KTVA Friday they had not asked Walker for one more day and didn’t know what Walker meant by the statement.
On Friday, Walker did not address reporters but, instead, he put out another press release.
“After meeting with leadership members from the House and Senate majorities and minorities, it is clear negotiations have reached a stalemate. A government shutdown is unacceptable and compromise is essential. So, my team and I have begun work on a compromise package from concepts currently on the table and intend to present the compromise to all four caucuses next week,” Walker wrote.
Immediately, some lawmakers saw the move as Walker desperately trying to save face.
“Where has he been? So, all of a sudden a guy comes out of nowhere and decides he’s going to introduce something that we’ve already had discussions about and magically we’re going come to [an] agreement on it because he said so?,” said Rep. Lance Pruitt (R-Anchorage) a member of the Finance Committee. “There’s people on both sides of the aisle that aren’t really a fan of the guy. There’s nothing he’s going to be able to do to step into the middle of a negotiation and make this happen.”
“At this point, you’re irrelevant,” Pruitt added. “The House and Senate need to come to an agreement and then he has the right to veto it at that point, but, he’s made himself irrelevant by not participating when we asked him to participate.”
Others are taking a diplomatic approach to the governor’s promise.
“Just because he believes he finds a compromise doesn’t mean that any individual group will agree with him, but, Alaskans will at least know what’s on the playing field which is what we’ve been trying to establish for some time,” said Sen. Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River) co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. “So, I hope that will be a positive step forward.”
“The governor believes we’re at a stalemate,” MacKinnon said. “I think setting the items that are on the table will help everyone, so, I’m okay with that. The Senate has identified those already and has certainly shared those with our colleagues in the House.”
When asked what role the governor play to bring the two sides together before June 30, Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer) expressed optimism.
“Well, putting another piece on the table — whether it would be a sales tax or whether it would be expanding the corporate income tax, to include LLCs and sub ‘S’ corporations, any of those pieces — the individual bodies might not want to come forward with, but, they might be willing to consider if the governor put them on the table,” Seaton said.
Last year, Walker put forward a sales tax which didn’t get a vote on either side. The only budget package that can move forward this year is one that has the approval of 21 lawmakers in the House and 11 in the Senate.
The post Governor declares budget stalemate, lawmakers take a break appeared first on KTVA 11.