Legislators Bogged Down After Missed Deadline
The Alaska Legislature did not finish hammering out a plan to fill an estimated 4 billion dollar budget deficit before the scheduled end of its regular session on Sunday. Legislators are remaining in Juneau for at least a week to finish as much as possible before renovations to the capitol building force them to leave.
Taneeka Hansen, Legislative Aide to Republican Representative Paul Seaton of Homer says legislators are working on several bills, but no major decisions have been made.
“House Finance Committee has been working over the last couple days on the new versions of House Bill 245, which is looking at a restructure of the earnings reserve and how those funds are used. And I think the hope is that something will come forward as something we can put out as the biggest portion of the fiscal plan,” said Hansen.
In addition to Governor Walker’s proposal to tap permanent fund earnings, Hansen says legislators are tackling criminal justice reform, restructuring oil and gas tax credits and Governor Walker’s income tax proposal. According to Hansen the Legislative Conference Committee working to resolve differences between the House and Senate operating budgets has not met since Saturday. She says they were scheduled to reconvene at 4 o’clock Tuesday.
The capitol building is currently undergoing renovations and Hansen says the legislature will probably have to relocate before May 2nd if the foundation for a fiscal plan has not been laid.
“The hope, I think, is to have the ground work for any sort of future plan laid by then. Even if we don’t have all the pieces in place…we don’t know yet if we have all the votes for any particular piece either,” said Hansen.
The location the legislature would move to is still up in the air. Hansen says it would depend on whether a special session is called, who calls it and how much progress legislators make before they adjourn.