In this February file photo, then-Speaker Pro Tempore Neal Foster, D-Nome, right, shakes hands with newly elected Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, in the House. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

In this February file photo, then-Speaker Pro Tempore Neal Foster, D-Nome, right, shakes hands with newly elected Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, in the House. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

House Majority: Tax increase off the table, Foster questions cuts

Edgmon asked caucus to “share the pain.”

The House Majority Coalition says a tax is off the table this year, and there will be budget cuts.

“The sheer complexity of taking on the proposed change to the budget itself will consume most our time going forward,” House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, said in a morning press conference. “To take on the issue of new revenues as we did in 2017 takes a lot of time, a lot of energy, a lot of agency participation.”

Edgmon said he’s asked caucus members to “help share the pain.”

“Not everybody’s going to be happy with this budget this year,” Edgmon said during a Friday press conference. “Some are going to think we’ve cut too much, others are going to think the Permanent Fund Dividend isn’t big enough, and others may think we have not protected core services to the extent that we might have.”

And budget cuts may not be as simple as the Dunleavy administration has told it. At least one representative has a different opinion on what constitutes a cut.

During the press conference, Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, who co-chairs the finance committee, said Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed cut of $1.6 billion is not a simple cut. For example, he noted a component of that figure is shifting more than $500 million to local governments. This shift of cost is due to Dunleavy’s proposals to repeal the revenue sharing provisions in the fisheries business tax, repealing the local property tax on oil and gas infrastructure and the debt reimbursement on school construction.

Foster also pointed out another component is using budget reserves, although not the Constitutional Budget Reserve.

“It’s not just cuts we’re looking at here,” Foster said. “We’re trying to figure out what the impacts of pulling half of (the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority’s) reserves are, and the statutory budget reserve. Is drawing from the SBR and AIDEA, is that considered savings?… Technically in my opinion that breaks the governor’s commitment to not go into savings… I think legislators will have different interpretations of that. We have to flesh that out to see where folks stand before we move the body.”

• Contact reporter Kevin Baird at 523-2258 or Follow him on Twitter at @alaska_kev.

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