House action a ‘betrayal’

With a government shutdown looming, the Democrat-led Alaska House coalition is busy rewriting history after it passed a combined capital and operating budget for the next fiscal year and adjourned, leaving the Senate to take it or leave it.

The action was irresponsible. People’s jobs are on the line along with added expense for the state. Almost laughably, the coalition pretends it will avert the shutdown and the layoff of some 18,000 state workers as it tries to lay the blame for the impasse on the GOP-led Senate, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Claiming it had negotiated with the Senate in good faith to no avail – read: the Senate simply refused to roll over – the House offered its budget and took a hike – the latest iteration of its our-way-or-the-highway approach to compromise. The House budgets would increase spending, restore $69 million cut from K-12 education and restore the full amount of the Permanent Fund dividends, which the house plan earlier had cut by more than half.

Despite its claims to the contrary, the coalition rejected compromise. Its actions almost ensures a July 1 shutdown if the two chambers do not reach agreement in another special session.

The House coalition’s recalcitrance from Day One of the legislative session is grounded in its demands for an income tax that would have stripped $700 million from an economy already rocked by recession. It even included language in its legislation that the Senate must adopt its entire fiscal package, aimed at closing the state’s $2.5 billion budget deficit, or none of it. The Senate is opposed to an income tax.

Senate President Pete Kelly in a news release called the House action “unnecessary and unprecedented” and a “betrayal of many conversations between the two bodies in an attempt to compromise.”

“Contrary to the House Majority’s rhetoric, their budget and adjournment tonight does not avert a government shutdown, but forces the Legislature into an additional special session that adds costs, grows uncertainty for the public and private sectors, and further hampers the ability of the two bodies to reach a compromise,” Kelly said.

“Alaskans should know tonight’s decision was unnecessary, and unprecedented. For weeks, the Senate urged the House Majority to negotiate a budget. The House Majority walked away from negotiations last week – then canceled four public negotiation sessions this week, while leading the Senate to believe they remained interested in a compromise. As late as Thursday at 6 pm, Senate leaders were still reaching out to the House Majority in hopes of reconciling the two bodies’ differences.”

Kelly was not alone in being disappointed by the House action.

“We were surprised by the House Majority’s actions tonight,” Gov. Bill Walker said Thursday night. “They did not get the job done for Alaska. A compromise is required to protect Alaskans and put the state on a stable fiscal path.”

The Senate, of course, is absolutely correct in rejecting an income tax when the state has $11 billion or so in various savings accounts and a Permanent Fund worth nearly $60 billion. When its says such a tax is unnecessary it is absolutely correct. An income tax should be the last resort not the first.

The House’s duplicitous, irresponsible actions should be remembered by all Alaskans.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Juneau – Tonight, to avoid a government shutdown at the beginning of the month, the Alaska House of Representatives passed a combined Capital and Operating Budget for Fiscal Year 2018. The House budgets reverse the Senate’s $69 million cut to K-12 education and most of the cut to the University of Alaska. Additionally, the Capital Budget restored the full amount of expected Permanent Fund Dividends, which will be paid in the fall to eligible Alaskans.

 

“Our actions tonight were not taken lightly. We simply had to remove the threat of a government shutdown from over the heads of Alaskans and our already struggling economy,” said Speaker of the House Rep. Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham). “We negotiated in good faith for a comprehensive and evenhanded fiscal plan, but the Senate Majority refused to consider anything other than their plan to cut Permanent Fund Dividends. Such a plan is simply unfair and places the sole burden of filling the over $2 billion budget gap on every man, woman, and child in Alaska without balanced contributions from the oil industry or the thousands of out-of-state workers.”

 

The members of the Alaska House Majority Coalition organized with two goals, to pass a responsible budget and to enact a fair and comprehensive fiscal plan. The Alaska Senate Majority’s refusal to negotiate on the components of a complete fiscal plan has pushed the State of Alaska to the brink of a government shutdown. Tonight’s action by the Alaska House of Representatives to combine the FY 2018 Operating and Capital budgets ensures there will be not need to be a government shutdown and that essential state services like public education and public safety are adequately funded.

 

“The Senate Majority seemed unmoved by the prospect of a government shutdown and refused concede on their cuts to public education and anything other than cuts to PFDs as new revenue,” said House Finance Committee Co-chair Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer). “The members of this Coalition believe in good governance and we tried to reach fiscal solutions this year on a plan that we believe is good public policy. However, we simply could not allow the Senate to deepen the recession and jeopardize the jobs of thousands of Alaskans by pushing the state to a government shutdown.”

 

Tonight’s unusual move to combine the Capital and Operating budgets shows the determination of the Alaska House Majority Coalition to keep Alaska up and running, especially during the vital commercial fishing and tourism seasons. The members of the Coalition urge their Senate colleagues to accept the budget so that Alaska’s airports stay open, sport fishing, commercial fishing, and tourism can continue uninterrupted, and thousands of hard-working state employees stay on the job serving the people of Alaska.

 

“I support what we did tonight. It’s time to fulfill our only Constitutional obligation to pass a fully funded budget, because a government shutdown is not acceptable. I am disappointed that the inflexibility of the Senate Majority prevented passage of a fair and comprehensive fiscal plan that gives economic certainty to families and small businesses throughout Alaska,” said House Majority Leader Rep. Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage).

 

Senate Bill 23, which includes the combined Operating and Capital Budget, was passed tonight by a vote of 22-18. The bill will now be sent to the Alaska State Senate for consideration.

 

After passing the combined Operating and Capital Budget tonight, the Alaska House of Representatives ended the First Special Session of the 30th Alaska State Legislature Sine Die.

 

For more information, please contact Alaska House Majority Coalition Press Secretary Mike Mason at (907) 444-0889.

3 Responses to House action a ‘betrayal’

  1. Rev Bill June 16, 2017 at 10:22 am

    Congratulations “Governor” One-Termer. You laid down with dogs to get elected and now they have rewarded you with a champion case of fleas. Say, are governors “essential” and continue to get a paycheck through what promises to be a really long shutdown?

    Reply
  2. Peter Pritchard June 16, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    Marvelous editorial and totally agree.

    Reply
  3. Observer June 16, 2017 at 12:45 pm

    Even the current dim bulb that serves as Governor realizes that the House has gone over the edge with their advocacy for continuing Alaska government services at the current level and for an income tax.

    If he has the fortitude to do so, the Governor can punish some member of the House majority rather easily. We will see on that score.

    Put State government on a sustainable spending path; use available financial resources; do not engage in income redistribution. That is the mature solution.

    Reply

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