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Alaska House delays vote on whether to pass the Senate’s budget with $5,500 in cash payments

The Alaska House of Representatives has delayed a key vote on whether to pass the Senate’s budget and send it onto Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s desk until Thursday.
Published: May. 11, 2022 at 8:23 PM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska House of Representatives has delayed a key vote on whether to pass the Senate’s budget and send it onto Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s desk until Thursday morning.

Typically, when there are differences between the House and Senate’s budget, a conference committee is called to reconcile those differences so a single bill can pass through both chambers and onto the governor for his consideration. But, the House could also concur with the Senate’s changes to the budget, which requires a simple majority vote of 21 legislators. That vote is expected to be close.

One big point of contention is that the Senate’s budget has a full statutory Permanent Fund dividend at over $4,200 and a one-time energy relief check at $1,300. Added together, the two checks would be over $5,500 and more than double the cash payments in the House’s budget.

The Senate’s budget also has almost $400 million set aside to pay for an expansion of the Port of Nome and repairs for the crumbling Port of Alaska. There have been concerns that state savings accounts would be drained to pay for the budget if oil prices drop.

Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, said she hoped the House would concur with the Senate’s budget changes so Alaskans can receive a full statutory dividend for the first time since 2015. House Speaker Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, largely reserved judgment on the Senate’s budget on Tuesday, saying she wanted to look at it in its entirety, but she said it is not fiscally conservative.

Behind the scenes, lobbying was going on in the Capitol throughout Wednesday. There were discussions that the budget could potentially pass if the governor pledged to veto the $1,300 energy relief check to bolster state savings accounts.

The Alaska AFL-CIO released a statement, urging legislators to reject the Senate’s budget. Wasilla Republican Rep. Chris Kurka, who is running in the upcoming gubernatorial election, said he could vote to concur with the Senate’s budget if Dunleavy publicly said that he would veto Medicaid funding for abortions.

The concurrence vote had been scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. Stutes and Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, walked on the floor alone a short time before then and adjourned the House until 10 a.m. on Thursday. A spokesperson for the bipartisan House majority said the intention is to take up the concurrence vote at that time.

The legislative session must end by midnight of May 18.

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