With deadline near, Alaska Legislature eyes taking more time

Rodiano Bonacci
Mag 20, 2017

The Alaska Legislature on Thursday convened a special session, called by Gov. Bill Walker, after failing to come to terms on a budget and plan for addressing the state's multibillion-dollar deficit during an extended regular session.

According to the Alaska Constitution, the governor can call lawmakers back into session for 30 days.

House and Senate leaders early on laid out plans for addressing the deficit that are significantly different. But the two sides are at odds over how best to move forward.

The coalition House Majority proposed a four-part plan including a state income tax, cuts to the state subsidy of oil and gas drilling, spending from the Permanent Fund's investment earnings, and modest budget cuts.

The House majority coalition, composed largely of Democrats, has insisted on a broad-based tax, like an income tax, and broader changes to oil tax and credit policy than the Senate has supported as part of an overall solution.

"I thank members of the House and Senate for taking positive steps toward solving Alaska's fiscal challenges", Gov.

Edgmon says ideally the House would be working on fiscal issues with the Senate. But she said the Senate is focused for now on a spending cap.

Lawmakers are not required to pass legislation dealing with all of these subjects, but they are limited to what's on the governor's agenda and can not add any other items.

Walker told reporters he'd consider amending the agenda, to add a specific tax proposal, if he felt talks on that topic weren't being productive.

Walker issued his call for a special session late Wednesday, after the House and Senate had ended a drawn-out regular session without reaching agreement on those and several other issues. The opioid legislation was proposed by Walker. Bills on the House's lengthy floor calendar Wednesday included a measure that would bar wolf hunting and trapping in certain areas adjacent to Denali National Park and Preserve and legislation that included what were seen as technical fixes to a sweeping criminal justice measure passed a year ago.

"At this point, obviously, we need the governor to lead the House majority to narrow the focus", Millett said Tuesday.

The Legislature did pass what were billed as technical fixes to the law.

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