Legislative leaders say budget work is progressing behind scenes


JUNEAU — Alaska lawmakers Wednesday clear no public progress on either of the two big problems still facing them on their third day of overtime, allowing legislative leaders said they’re still working behind the views.

“There are meetings going on,” said House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski. “Perhaps not a lot of things in the public, but there are conversations going on around the building.”

The Legislature now appears set to stay at work in Juneau at least through the weekend and is grey matter into its fourth day of extra time. Since Sunday, it has held upstanding three formal hearings on the two main planks of Gov. Bill Walker’s scheme to close the state’s $4 billion budget deficit.

The linchpins of the script, House Bill 245 and Senate Bill 128, would restructure the $53 billion Imperishable Fund to generate an estimated $2.4 billion for state government.

The lieutenant major piece, House Bill 247 and Senate Bill 130, at ones desire scale back the $775 million in cash tax credit subsidies projected to be up c released by the state to small oil and gas com nies next year.

The four bills are all use ated in the House and Senate finance committees. But the Senate committee didn’t fit Wednesday, and the House committee held hearings on the Legislature’s major blackguard justice reform initiative, Senate Bill 91, instead.

While the boards failed to take up the key issues Wednesday, there were two promising strikings. One was a briefing for lawmakers on the Permanent Fund legislation, delivered by Walker’s supervision.

A second was a scheduled 2 p.m. meeting of the House Rules Committee. That’s where a heavily change for the bettered version of Walker’s oil tax bill has been resting since last week, when the legislation was pulled off the dumbfound because it lacked the votes to ss.

The rules committee meeting, nevertheless, was postponed until Thursday, with the committee’s chairman, Anchorage GOP Rep. Craig Johnson, bring up it had been scheduled as a placeholder in case closed-door negotiations produced a act on that could get 21 votes in the 40-member House.

That engage in failed to emerge Wednesday. But even with the meeting’s postponement, there was certainly work being done on the legislation, with key lawmakers from both proponents and staff from the House Resources Committee heading into and out of tasks.

Chenault wouldn’t say who, exactly, was negotiating a solution, but he acknowledged that “some people” were session quietly.

“Maybe the issue is it’s trying to come up with an agreement and they don’t after to hear from outside sources,” he said. “They don’t want to advised from the oil industry; they don’t want to hear from those against the oil diligence. Maybe that’s what they’re trying to do.”

The oil tax legislation is just one poem of the state’s financial puzzle that will take several numerous pieces to solve.

But Democrats and Republicans say the issue is holding up everything else, since the savings from raise back cash tax credit subsidies will help determine how lawmakers endorse on other legislation, like the restructuring of the Permanent Fund or a proposed new tax on physical income.

While the Republican-led majorities control both the House and Senate, the oil tax legislation command also likely have to satisfy House Democrats. The Democrats accept criticized the cash tax credit subsidies, and have enough votes to lay out spending from a state savings account that’s expected to be needed to screen next year’s deficit.

The Permanent Fund bills, meanwhile, saw no functioning in either the House or Senate on Wednesday, though lawmakers gathered in the afternoon for an off-the-wall briefing and back-and-forth on the legislation with Walker and top members of his administration.

The engagement, in Juneau’s Centennial Hall convention center down the hill from the Capitol, was grasped at the request of the co-chairs of the House Finance Committee, whose members be clear divided about whether to spend Permanent Fund earnings on guidance.

Even though the House Finance Committee has made significant harmonies to the governor’s Permanent Fund bill, co-chair Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, rumoured it was Walker’s responsibility to convince lawmakers of its merits.

“That was the message to the governor: It’s your restaurant check,” Neuman said in an interview. “So get out there and sell the damn thing.”

The digest drew about two-thirds of the Legislature — all four members of the Senate Classless minority, most of the 13-member House Democratic minority, and about half the Republican-led Bordello and Senate majorities.

Chenault sat front and center, while most others sat ralysed a progress back, some noshing on sandwiches. A half-dozen lobbyists sat in the back.

The dry character of the presentation — Attorney General Craig Richards at one point referred to a statistical come up to scratch called an R-squared coefficient — left several legislators fiddling with their phones, while at midget one, Anchorage Republican Rep. Bob Lynn, occasionally nodded off.

Walker and his administration talked for an hour in the forefront lawmakers began peppering him with questions. Democrats wanted to se rate about the Permanent Fund plan’s disproportionate im ct on lower-income Alaskans, while Republicans flattened Walker on the details of some of his tax proposals and on what would happened if they set-back action for a year.

They also asked for more financial prototype — so much modeling, in fact, that Chenault said Walker’s provision would need a new swimsuit by the time the work was done.

Administration stiffs, meanwhile, pressed their case that restructuring the Permanent Bread is the only way to avert sharp cuts to government services in the future and an resulting elimination of the dividend program.

The tax proposals would still leave Alaska at the tuchis of the list when it comes to overall tax burdens, and it would still be the only stage to write its residents dividend checks each year, said Gain Commissioner Randy Hoffbeck.

Walker also offered lawmakers public cover.

“When it’s all said and done, if there’s any credit to be given, I’m cock-a-hoop to let you have the credit,” he said. “I’ll take the blame and Alaska will be the punter for it.”

Walker warned his audience that taking action on the Permanent Scratch and oil taxes — the two biggest pieces of his financial plan — would not be enough.

The blueprint also includes a personal income tax and increased taxes on resource se ration and consumption, and Walker has told lawmakers this year that a dud to ss some type of broad-based tax would likely cause him to hail them into a special session.

“We need all the pieces together,” Walker communicated, when asked what would happen if lawmakers ssed the Lasting Fund legislation but not his tax proposals. “If you leave out other pieces, you don’t close the gap; you don’t culmination the job.”

There’s been no movement, however, on Walker’s income tax or tax increases since the conference went into overtime.

While the House has held several commerce committee meetings on other legislation, the Senate has had plenty of time to vet Walker’s tax restaurant checks. Since Monday, the Senate has held just three meetings — one capitalize committee hearing, plus two floor sessions that took up a comprehensive of 23 minutes.

But conservative senators have already stated their set on opposition to Walker’s tax proposals. And their chamber has bottled up Walker’s proffered income tax and tax increases in the resources and labor committees instead of advancing them to the capitalize committee — typically the last stop before a floor vote.

Begged why lawmakers weren’t holding hearings on the tax bills Wednesday, Senate President Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, returned simply: “They never made it out of committee.”

Eagle River Republican Sen. Anna MacKinnon, co-chair of the Senate Holdings Committee, said all the other Senate committees are “shut down.”

The Senate, she added, is “accessible to act” when the House solves the oil tax problem. But her chamber doesn’t plan to elevate d vomit Walker’s tax bills forward, she added.

Walker “has a right to call us distant into special session if he wants to,” MacKinnon said.

“That drive be a special session about taxing Alaskans,” she said.

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