More House shenanigans

Good grief. Even more irresponsible silliness from Juneau.

Alaska’s government is slated to shut down in a few days and the legislative special session ends on Friday. The state still has a $2.5 billion budget deficit and the Legislature’s two chambers remain far apart on how best to plug Alaska’s $2.5 billion budget gap. Time is running out.

So, now, the state House votes to double the Permanent Fund dividend, adding $700 million to the budget – and gutting its own budget deficit-reduction plan to pressure the Senate.

It boils down to a chess game of sorts, and a bad chess game at that.

The Democrat-led House coalition – which contains three Republicans – and the GOP-led Senate are at odds over an income tax and increased oil taxes. The House wants them, even demands them; the Senate, which vows it will not budge, does not, saying they are unnecessary. Until the House voted to increase the dividend, both chambers’ budget deficit reduction plans contained drastic dividend cuts.

The amendment in the capital budget came from the new, apparent de facto House speaker, Anchorage Republican Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux. It passed 26-14.

Thanks to that, while state workers face layoffs on July 1 and everybody who needs government services is holding their breath, it appears the House – not getting its way on the income and oil taxes despite angrily stamping its feet – has chosen this point in time to lob a monkey wrench into the works.

Its Democrat-led coalition thinks it can fool Alaskans and lay the budget imbroglio at the feet of the Senate. “See,” its members could say, “We tried to increase your dividend, but the mean ol’ Senate would not go along and you poor state workers got laid off. Blame the Republicans.”

What they are not saying is that even if the increased Permanent Fund dividend somehow passed the Senate and was sent to Gov. Bill Walker there is almost zero chance it would be signed it into law. After all, he vetoed half of last year’s dividends to save the state money.

What the House is doing is wasting valuable time in a game of “strategery,” trying to restore the dividend it earlier had cut as a major part of its fiscal plan, all in a move to pressure the Senate to cave in on taxes. Do it our way, or to heck with it, the House seems to be saying.

If state workers are laid off, if all but essential state services are shelved, if the state fails to adopt a fiscal plan and adopts only a budget, make no mistake, the fault will lie entirely with the House and its in-your-face recalcitrance.

What a waste.




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