A handful of lawmakers negotiate while others wait
Friday marks the 95th day of the legislative session in Juneau, and many are hoping a budget deal can be made. Each extra day also means more than $13,000 is being spent on legislators’ per diem, on top of their salaries.
Rep. Mark Neuman says he’s not surprised negotiations have gone into overtime.
“This has never happened in the state where we lost this much funding, we lost better than 60 percent of our revenue that was coming in,” said the Republican from Big Lake.
The House of Representatives sat Thursday, though not much was accomplished. There was a special order on the importance of vitamin D, another on the negatives of federal overreach, and finally Rep. Chris Tuck told House members how much his partner is looking forward to drinking coffee and margaritas now that their baby has been born. The capital budget is still waiting for House approval.
Even though it appears time is being wasted, Rep. Neuman insists negotiations on the budget continue.
“It is on everyone’s mind, and people continue to talk about it, the House Majority does not want to spend anymore money, I think the Senate Majority does not want to spend anymore money, the Minority wants to add more money back in and we’re saying, ‘No, we are not going to add any more money back in,'” Neuman said.
A conference committee also met Thursday and voted to reopen some budget items related to the Alaska Marine Highway System. Originally, the Senate agreed to support lesser cuts proposed by the House. Now, the Senate has withdrawn that support, opening up the possibility of more service reductions and job losses.
“We have a large number of ports that we are serving, a number of vessels to serve them. And with less money, then we have to start having to lay vessels up and we are not able to adequately serve all ports,” said Rep. Sam Kito.
The Juneau Democrat says services in winter and summer could be affected.
The conference committee also confirmed a bill that rejects some union and non-union contracts worth $30 million.
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