Members of the House Majority Caucus hold a huddle at the back of the House's chambers while working on amendments to the operating budget on Thursday.

Members of the House Majority Caucus hold a huddle at the back of the House's chambers while working on amendments to the operating budget on Thursday.

Alaska House passes $8.66 billion budget

The Alaska House of Representatives worked into the early hours of Friday morning before passing an $8.66 billion state operations budget that includes $639.6 million in cuts from the current fiscal year.

A majority of lawmakers turned down all 31 budget amendments that came before them, which meant the budget that passed the full House was the same one approved by the House Finance Committee earlier this week. Most amendments were declined along caucus lines. All were suggested eitherby independent Republican Lora Reinbold of Eagle River or the Democratic-led House minority. All were opposed by the Republican-led House majority.

“Nobody gets exactly what they want, and that’s the budget reality,” said Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake and co-chairman of the finance committee, about 2 a.m. Friday. “Some think we’ve cut too much; others think we haven’t cut enough.”

The final house vote was 24-14 and came at 3:10 a.m. Friday morning. The budget becomes effective July 1, but it likely will undergo significant changes before then. The Alaska Senate is expected to pass a competing budget this weekend. Neither branch of the Legislature is expected to approve the other’s budget, which means the two different plans are bound

for a conference committee that will create a compromise plan.

That plan is not expected to be complete until the end of the 90-day Legislative session. Friday was the 53rd day of the session. The budget is only a spending plan: With the state running a deficit of about $3.7 billion, lawmakers still have to come up with a way to pay for it.

“This is only part of the process. We also have some other pieces of legislation out there,” said Rep. Sam Kito III, D-Juneau. “We have some other things to be considered before we have a budget that is paid for. This budget doesn’t have the money to pay for it.”

To pay for state operations, the Legislature may pass any of several proposed tax increases or spend some of the investment earnings of the $50 billion Alaska Permanent Fund. Lawmakers could also choose to cover this year’s deficit with money from the $8.21 billion Constitutional Budget Reserve.

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