House passes budget bill to restore scholarship, energy assistance funds
The House approved funding for a budget bill that restores money for university scholarships, rural energy assistance and the state’s medical school program.
Senate Bill 2002 also funds highway, airport and other construction projects that triggers nearly $1 billion in federal matching dollars.
The House has long struggled with the bill because it required a three-quarter vote rather than a simple majority of 21. On Monday, funding for SB 2002 passed, 31-7.
“We’re putting Alaskans first,” said Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage. “We’re not putting the PFD among first. We’re not letting the state burn on the amount of a dividend. We are saying the people come first. We’re going to bring stability and sanity to our state and we’re going to pass this budget.”
Getting to 31 required votes from the Republican-led minority. Anchorage Reps. Lance Pruitt, Laddie Shaw, Sarah Rasmussen and Josh Revak, plus Gabrielle LeDoux, who is not affiliated with either caucus voted yes. Rep. DeLena Johnson (R-Palmer) and Dave Talerico (R-Healey) pushed the vote beyond the required 30.
It was the final attempt to pass the bill and funding, representing a key step toward adjournment. Lawmakers are on day 22 of a 30-day special session that could last as long as Aug. 6.
The bill featured an effort to restore several dozen depleted funds shifted to a state savings account per the Alaska Constitution. Those funds are worth about $2 billion.
The familiar term is known as a “sweep,” and unless lawmakers responded with a “reverse sweep” — and the necessary three-quarter vote from each chamber — they would remain in the Constitutional Budget Reserve.
A reverse sweep vote gained state-wide attention after Gov. Mike Dunleavy included some accounts that have historically been left alone.
That included two self-supporting endowments, the Power Cost Equalization Investment Fun, the Alaska Higher Education Investment Fund and the state’s medical school program.
Rep. Tammie Wilson, however, questioned whether the bill represented a compromise.
“To me, today is about the 30th vote,” she said. “It’s not about compromise. It’s not about trying to work things out.”
This is the second time a capital budget has cleared the Legislature, but the first time it was fully funded. Dunleavy vetoed several projects from the first bill, but the Legislature restored those vetoes. Dunleavy hailed the passage of the capital budget for its ability to generate work statewide and said he hoped to act on the bill sooner rather than later.
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