House passes new budget bill, PFD legislation next
The House on Wednesday voted to restore significant portions of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s $444 million vetoes announced last month.
After failing to secure the 45 votes necessary for a veto override, the House used House Bill 2001 as a budget bill to address dozens of Dunleavy's vetoes. The legislation began as a Permanent Fund dividend bill, but that part was removed and used to create HB 2003.
The new dividend bill received a quick hearing Wednesday night and will get further review Thursday morning in the House Finance Committee. House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, said he would like to have the bill on the floor Thursday.
House Rules Committee Chair Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, said separating the two issues brings simplicity to shaping the Legislature’s fiscal framework.
“As long as those two items are joined tighter in one bill, it’s very hard to have an honest discussion about either one,” Kopp said. “By treating the dividend separately, we can have a fair discussion on what the dividend should be going forward and how we can keep that calculation that is sustainable so that it’s around for our children, our grandchildren.”
House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, said separating the two simply adds to a delay on a topic he says should have been resolved months ago.
“At some point where going to have to deal with this,” he said. “We need to tackle it. We’ve been pushing this off for months, months, months, months. Eventually we’re going to have to get down to brass tacks and we’re going to have to talk about this, and I don’t know that introducing a bill and pushing it off again is appropriate.”
Some of funding that would be restored by HB 2001 includes:
• University of Alaska ($110 million)
• Senior Benefits Program ($20 million, plus $800,000 to cover May and June)
• Public Broadcasting ($2.7 million)
• Alaska State Council on the Arts ($3.8 million)
• VPSO ($3 million)
• Council on Domestic Violence ($250,000)
• Legal and Advocacy Services ($671,700)
• Ocean Rangers Program ($3.4 million)
• Medicaid Services ($77 million, including $27 million for adult preventative care)
The bill next goes to the Senate, which is scheduled to meet on Saturday. However, even with efforts to restore the vetoes in a new budget bill, the governor could still veto them again.
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