Prospect of special session looms for lawmakers

JUNEAU — The prospect of a special session loomed as Alaska lawmakers hit their fourth month in regular session without agreement on a plan for pulling the state out of a massive budget deficit.

Lawmakers worked past the voter-approved 90-day session limit in April after failing to come to terms on changes to Alaska’s oil and gas tax credit system. The state constitution allows for 121-day regular sessions, a mark lawmakers will reach Wednesday.

They have the option of extending for up to 10 days but need a two-thirds vote on each side to do so. Gov. Bill Walker, who has said he wants a complete fiscal plan passed this year, also could call them into a special session, which some legislative leaders expect.

House Speaker Mike Chenault said he would like to be able to get a budget passed before going into any special session to put state workers’ minds at ease. Last year, state employees received layoff notices as a legislative dispute over the budget spilled into June. The new fiscal year begins July 1.

“I know we’re not going to get to all the revenue measures, but the governor is going to call us back on those anyway,” Chenault, R-Nikiski, said in an interview Monday.

Senate President Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, on Tuesday said he would like to see the budgets and oil tax credit bill passed by Wednesday but said that may be overly optimistic. “It’s all pretty much contingent on the House now,” he said.

House Minority Leader Chris Tuck said his caucus doesn’t want to give up the leverage it has for funding the budget without knowing what the overall fiscal plan will be. Generally, a three-quarter vote is needed in each the House and Senate to access the constitutional budget reserve to help cover costs. That’s not a problem in the Senate, where 16 of its 20 members belong to the Republican-led majority. Reaching that threshold in the House, though, requires support from the Democratic-led minority.

Should a three-quarter vote fail, an option that’s been raised is using earnings from the Alaska Permanent Fund to cover budget costs. A three-quarter vote is not necessary to access the fund. Walker spokeswoman Katie Marquette said it was too soon to say if the governor would veto a budget funded with permanent fund earnings.

“Our issues are immediate and unavoidable, and so I must insist that we keep working together for as long as it takes to solve them,” Walker wrote in a letter to lawmakers dated Saturday.

Tuck, D-Anchorage, said he would rather go into a special session than further extend the regular session, to limit the issues under consideration.

Work by lawmakers Tuesday included the Senate Finance Committee advancing an oil and gas tax credit rewrite that takes a different approach than what passed the House with Democratic buy-in last week. Tuck called that rewrite “bogus.”

More in News

A parking sign awaits the new executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund at its Juneau headquarters, Three finalists will be interviewed for the job during a public meeting Monday by the fund’s board of trustees, who are expected to deliberate and announce the new director immediately afterward. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Interviews, selection of new Permanent Fund CEO set for Monday

Three finalists seeking to manage $73.7B fund to appear before trustees at public meeting in Juneau

Principal Sarge Truesdell looks at cracked siding outside of Soldotna High School on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. The siding is one of several projects in a bond package Kenai Peninsula voters will consider during the Oct. 4 municipal election. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Split siding at SoHi

The damage has been given patchwork treatment over the years

Members of Kenai Central High School Esports gather around coach Shane Lopez before their League of Legends match Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022, at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Video gaming enters the arena

Kenai Central debuts esports team

Alaska State Troopers logo.
Soldotna man found dead in lake, troopers report

State Troopers were notified of a deceased person floating in Browns Lake

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID hospitalizations, cases down from last week

The state reported no new resident deaths from COVID-19 this week

Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire
The Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. building in Juneau is scheduled to be the site where the board of trustees will select a new executive director on Monday, following the investigation into the firing of former CEO Angela Rodell last December being presented to state lawmakers on Wednesday.
Investigators: Permanent Fund CEO’s firing legal but departed from policy

Trustees acted legally, despite not following official policy, and governor didn’t influence decision

A fishing boat passes the Silversea cruise ship Silver Wind as the boat enters the Homer Harbor on Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
Finding refuge

Silver Wind is one of two cruise ships to visit since pandemic.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly candidates Dil Uhlin, left, and Jesse Bjorkman participate in a candidate forum at the Soldotna Public Library on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. Both candidates are running for the assembly’s Nikiski seat. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Nikiski assembly candidates talk borough issues at final municipal election forum

There are three candidates running for the assembly’s District 3 - Nikiski seat

Kenai Middle School Principal Vaughn Dosko gestures toward a cart used to provide school lunch services on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Critical needs’: Security concerns and lunch lines

Safety upgrades, more space sought at Kenai Middle

Most Read