JUNEAU — Gov. Bill Walker on Wednesday said he wouldn’t veto legislation calling for structured, annual draws from Alaska Permanent Fund earnings if he doesn’t get other pieces of his fiscal plan. But he made clear he wants a broader package from lawmakers.
The comments came during a briefing with legislators requested by the House Finance Committee co-chairs on the latest version of Walker’s permanent fund plan. The proposal is central to Walker’s plan to address a multibillion-dollar budget deficit, and one of the thorny, unresolved issues in the extended legislative session. Taxes and budget cuts also have been proposed to help close the gap.
Rep. Dan Saddler, R-Eagle River, asked if Walker would veto a permanent fund bill if the governor didn’t also get bills he’s proposed dealing with taxes and credits. Walker has proposed a personal state income tax, higher taxes on motor fuels and various industries and changes to the state’s oil and gas tax credit system.
Walker called the permanent fund bill a critical piece of a broader package that needs to come together. If pieces are left out, “you don’t close the gap, you don’t finish the job,” Walker said.
But, he said later, “I’m not going to stop something going through because not everything is in line exactly.”
Walker in a brief interview said he would not reject a “good, solid piece” passed by lawmakers but wants a complete fiscal plan. He would take each bill as he got it, he said. If legislators passed the permanent fund piece and adjourned, Walker said he wouldn’t veto it. But, “I’d call them back to finish up,” he said.
Walker has said he sees spending cuts, a restructuring of permanent fund earnings and the dividend program and new revenues that include a broad-based tax as key pieces for a sustainable budget. He said he’d be happy to hold similar briefings on other proposals.
An inability to come to an agreement on oil and gas tax credits on the House side sent lawmakers into overtime this week. Resolution on that issue is seen as key to further discussions on the budget and revenue measures. There is division over taxes, particularly an income tax proposed by Walker. Senate President Kevin Meyer said Tuesday that not including tax bills, the permanent fund bill would be the hardest bill of those left in play for the Senate to pass.