House passes capital budget but can't agree on funding sources
The House approved a budget paying for road, airport and other construction projects, plus the replenishment to accounts that would fund college scholarships and rural energy assistance.
But Senate Bill 2002 failed to achieve the supermajority vote needed to leverage federal funding for the projects and restore funding swept into a savings account under the Alaska Constitution. It leaves the budget largely unfunded and puts the Legislature back to the same position it was last month when the House couldn’t achieve required funding votes.
But under a procedural motion, the House can vote again on Monday. It is scheduled to meet again in the morning.
The bill featured an effort to restore several dozen depleted funds shifted to a state savings account per the state constitution. Those funds are worth about $2 billion.
The familiar term is known as a “sweep,” and unless it’s answered with a “reverse sweep” from a three-quarter vote from each chamber, they remain in the Constitutional Budget Reserve.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy included some accounts that have historically been left alone including two self-supporting endowments: Power Cost Equalization Investment Fund and Alaska Higher Education Investment Fund.
The House spent nearly four hours debating several amendments largely tying a $3,000 Permanent Fund dividend to this bill.
The House has a separate dividend bill under consideration. House Bill 2001 also proposes restoring all of Dunleavy’s $444 million in vetoes. The bill is currently being debated and received three hearings outside of Juneau, one each in Anchorage, Wasilla and Fairbanks.
Sunday’s vote did not fall along caucus lines. The budget passed, 27-6, with seven members previously excused. But only 25 supported where the funds would come from — 30 are needed — and drawing the swept funds out of the Constitutional Budget Reserve.
Rep. Kelly Merrick, R-Eagle River, a member of the House Finance Committee and the Republican minority, supported the bill and the reverse sweep.
“I also have concerns that if we don’t pass a capital budget, it could be devastating to our state’s critical infrastructure,” Merrick said. “We’re all aware of the federal funds that are at stake here. These federal dollars that help build our roads and airports."
“This is a nine-to-one match. Our congressional delegation has expressed to us that we need to act on this issue in a timely manner. This bill means good jobs for Alaskans, and I’m not willing to play politics when there is so much on the line.”
On Saturday, the Senate unanimously passed the budget just as it did last month.
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