Peter Segall | Juneau Empire                                Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, speaks to Sen. Click Bishop, R-North Pole, on Monday.

Peter Segall | Juneau Empire Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, speaks to Sen. Click Bishop, R-North Pole, on Monday.

Senate passes $12 billion budget, moves to adjourn early

Budget contains emergency funding for COVID-19 and a $1000 PFD

The Senate passed a state budget bill with $12.6 billion in funding after several hours of debate on the floor Monday.

Contained in the budget was $75 million in emergency funding for the COVID-19 crisis and unlimited federal receipt authority for Gov. Mike Dunleavy to accept funds from the federal government.

Senators also voted for a $1,000 emergency relief payment to Alaskans who qualified for the 2019 permanent fund dividend to be sent out in the coming weeks.

Sen. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla, who introduced the amendment, had earlier tried to add an amendment allocating a $1,300 supplemental PFD, but that motion narrowly failed, 10-9.

Shower argued that by mandating the closure of businesses the state owed a responsibility to Alaskans to help ease their financial strain.

“We are killing (people’s) livelihood,” Shower said. “People need help right now, and we can’t wait for help from the federal government.”

The U.S. Congress is currently weighing making cash payments to Americans but supporters of Shower’s amendment, including some Democrats, argued there wasn’t time to wait.

Opponents, including Senate Finance Co-chairs Sens. Natasha Von Imhof, R-Anchorage and Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, said while they agreed Alaskans were in need, PFDs would be sent to every Alaskan, even those who aren’t in financial need.

Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, cited many of the essential services provided by the state such as police and public health care. It made more sense, he said, to keep that money where it could be most effective, such as funding health services to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.

“It’s the difference between a ripple in the water and a wave,” he said.

Though Shower’s initial amendment failed, his second attempt which allocated only $1,000 passed 12-7.

Shower and Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, attempted to add several amendments Monday, with most of them failing save for Shower’s payment amendment.

Reinbold proposed adding in a full statutory PFD of $3,000 — the bill which passed the Senate allocated $1,000 for 2020’s PFD — and tried to add intent language which would “extend the benefits” of the U.S. Supreme Courts decision in Janus v AFSCME.

Last year Attorney General Kevin Clarkson issued an opinion the state was not in compliance with that decision, which says public employee unions can no longer automatically collect union dues. That opinion was challenged by the unions in the state and the matter is still in the courts. Citing the ongoing court case that amendment failed 15-4.

When the budget came before the Senate Monday morning it allocated roughly $11.8 billion, but with additional amendments, it rose to nearly $12 billion. Shower’s $1,000 relief check amendment added $680 million to the state’s budget.

The bill still needs to be passed by the House, which has yet to pass the FY2020 supplemental budget sent to them by the Senate last week.

That bill contained additional funding for COVID-19 relief as well as language for the “reverse sweep,” an action to reverse an accounting mechanism that empties state accounts at the end of each fiscal year. Normally those accounts are automatically restored by an act of the Legislature, but in the past few years, the approval of the reverse sweep has been used as a bargaining chip by the House Minority for leverage over the majority.

Members of House Majority have said they will try to rescind the vote against the supplemental budget and try again, hoping the sense of urgency provided by the COVID-19 pandemic will motivate members to pass the bill.

Asked what happens if the House fails to do that, Stedman told reporters following Monday’s floor session, “they might want to consider that.”

“If they don’t get (the supplemental budget) across the finish line, then those funds would be swept,” Stedman said. “My concern is we’ll have a lot of federal money coming in that’ll be sitting in those accounts, and it’ll restrict the flexibility that the governor has to even respond.”

After the vote on the budget, that Senate passed a resolution that would allow the Legislature to take a recess of more than three days if they can pass a budget. Some lawmakers are hoping to pass a budget and reconvene later in the year when the crisis has hopefully abated. Stedman said he hoped the Legislature could finish its business by the end of the week.

Both bodies were holding sessions into the evening Monday.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.

Information on the coronavirus is available from websites for the State of Alaska at coronavirus.alaska.gov and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with flu-like symptoms are encouraged to contact their health care provider.

Alaska state Rep. David Eastman sits at his desk on the House floor in Juneau, Alaska, Monday, March 23, 2020. Eastman, a Wasilla Republican, has been critical of the Legislature’s planning around the coronavirus. Rep. Sharon Jackson also wore a mask on the House floor Monday. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

Alaska state Rep. David Eastman sits at his desk on the House floor in Juneau, Alaska, Monday, March 23, 2020. Eastman, a Wasilla Republican, has been critical of the Legislature’s planning around the coronavirus. Rep. Sharon Jackson also wore a mask on the House floor Monday. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

More in News

Sockeye salmon are gathered together at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Dipnets for commercial setnet fishers given emergency approval by CFEC

Up to three 12-hour periods of commercial dipnetting “may” be allowed each week from June 20 to July 31

Council member Dave Carey speaks during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna explores increases to its water and sewer expansion fees

The fees are a single charge to people who are newly or differently demanding or utilizing the services of the city’s water and sewer system

Sockeye salmon caught in a set gillnet are dragged up onto the beach at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Disaster determination received for 2023 east side setnet fishery

Disasters have been recognized for 2018, 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023

Design Project Manager Steve Noble and Public Involvement Lead Stephanie Queen appear to discuss the Sterling Safety Corridor Improvements project during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 12, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Sterling Safety Corridor project to get ‘reintroduction’ at community meetings this month

The corridor begins near Whistle Hill in Soldotna and ends shortly after Swanson River Road in Sterling

Vice President Tyson Cox speaks during a meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly in Soldotna, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 4, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Assembly to discuss short-term rental tax on Tuesday

The resolution describes a proposed tax of up to 12%

Photo provided by Special Olympics Alaska Central Peninsula
The Special Olympics Alaska Central Peninsula team stands together for a photo during the Summer State Games in Anchorage.
Area athletes claim 45 medals at Special Olympics Alaska Summer Games

The Central Peninsula team fielded 17 local athletes in the competition

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion
Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, speaks in support of debating an omnibus education bill in the Alaska House Chambers on Monday, Feb. 19 in Juneau.
Ruffridge talks successes, unfinished business after freshman session in Juneau

Ruffridge is up for election this year, facing a challenger in former-Rep. Ron Gillham

tease
Homer, Seldovia to celebrate summer solstice

Events will be held starting June 20

A freshly stocked rainbow trout swims in Johnson Lake during Salmon Celebration on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, at Johnson Lake in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Slow sockeye fishing at Russian River, good rainbow trout at Kenai Lake

A Northern Kenai Fishing Report published by the State Department of Fish… Continue reading

Most Read