The Alaska House on Thursday passed a state operating budget rejecting the level of cuts proposed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, sending it to the Senate for further work.
Cuts were made to areas like the university system, ferry system and Medicaid though lawmakers were told the state has flexibility to make some additional Medicaid cuts.
Minority House Republicans unsuccessfully sought continued debate on proposed amendments, including some they said dealt with Alaska Permanent Fund dividends.
This year’s dividend will be closely watched amid the broader budget debate, with Dunleavy calling for a full payout and lawmakers weighing smaller checks to afford government services.
House Finance Committee Co-chair Neal Foster said the dividend will be dealt with later.
House Minority members criticized the approach of dealing with the PFD later. Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, said in a press conference Thursday that the House should be talking about the PFD now instead of saving it for the end. Saving tough issues for the end of session, he said, creates an “artificial harmony” in the Legislature which could lead to people finding out later that they don’t have the alignment they thought they did.
The 24-14 vote to approve the budget proposal broke down along caucus lines. Pruitt criticized the House Majority for not tackling the main topics head-on.
“This budget had no plan,” Pruitt said. “Actually, what it seemed like is it seemed like a budget that was designed to keep a budget together (rather) than to actually govern.”
Juneau Empire reporter Alex McCarthy contributed.
• Juneau Empire reporter Alex McCarthy contributed.