Several Alaska state representatives gather in front of state House Speaker Bryce Edgmon during a break in a House floor session on Wednesday, May 17, 2017, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

Several Alaska state representatives gather in front of state House Speaker Bryce Edgmon during a break in a House floor session on Wednesday, May 17, 2017, in Juneau, Alaska. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

With deadline near, Alaska Legislature eyes taking more time

JUNEAU — Wednesday marked a constitutional deadline for Alaska lawmakers to end their regular session. But with a budget and plan for addressing Alaska’s multibillion-dollar deficit unresolved, more time was needed.

Options included extending the session for another 10 days, which requires two-thirds support in each chamber, or looking to Gov. Bill Walker to call a special session. House Speaker Bryce Edgmon said Wednesday there didn’t appear to be sufficient support to extend the session.

As of press time on Wednesday, both the House and the Senate remained in session.

House Minority Leader Charisse Millett said Tuesday that the House majority coalition, composed largely of Democrats, had failed during an already extended session to stay focused on the budget and a fiscal solution and that her Republican caucus was not inclined to support an extension. Support from within Millett’s caucus was needed to meet the two-thirds threshold in the House.

“At this point, obviously, we need the governor to lead the House majority to narrow the focus,” Millett said Tuesday. Under a special session called by the governor, the agenda would be limited to items he puts on it.

Edgmon, a Democrat from Dillingham, said that ideally the House would be working on fiscal issues with the Senate. But the two sides are at odds over how best to move forward.

“We’re going to stay here until we get the package that puts Alaska in the best shape to go forward and we don’t have to continue cutting schools and other important public services,” Edgmon said.

Lawmakers in April blew past a 90-day, voter-approved regular session limit. Wednesday marked the 121-day constitutional limit.

Over the last month, work has continued, particularly in the House, on bills not related to the budget or a fiscal fix. Bills on the House’s lengthy floor calendar Wednesday included a measure that would bar wolf hunting and trapping in certain areas adjacent to Denali National Park and Preserve and legislation that included what were seen as technical fixes to a sweeping criminal justice measure passed last year.

Edgmon said his coalition committed to staying busy and addressing other bills of importance while the Legislature was meeting. Bills that are alive at the end of the regular session will remain in play when the next regular session opens next year.

The Republican-led Senate, meanwhile, Wednesday approved allowing ride-share companies, like Uber and Lyft, to operate in Alaska. That bill now goes to Walker for consideration.

When it comes to a fiscal plan, there’s general agreement about using earnings from Alaska’s oil-wealth fund — the Alaska Permanent Fund — to help fill the deficit. But there is sharp disagreement over what else should be done.

The House majority has insisted on a broad-based tax, like an income tax, and changes to oil tax and credit policy as part of an overall solution. The Senate, meanwhile, has rejected the income tax bill passed by the House and proposed limits on future state spending.

The Senate also has proposed cuts to public education and the university system that the House majority considers too deep.

While lawmakers have moved to end future cashable oil tax credits, seeing the program that financially rewards oil exploration and production as too expensive, House majority members favor further changes to the state’s oil tax system than the Senate has supported.

Jessica Geary, finance manager for the Legislative Affairs Agency, said she did not have accurate reporting for extended session costs so far.

The new fiscal year starts July 1.

Several Alaska state representatives gather around Rep. Lance Pruitt, seated, during a break in a House floor session on Wednesday, May 17, 2017, in Juneau, Alaska. Shown are, from left, Reps. Tammie Wilson, Steve Thompson, Jennifer Johnston, Pruitt and Chuck Kopp. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

Several Alaska state representatives gather around Rep. Lance Pruitt, seated, during a break in a House floor session on Wednesday, May 17, 2017, in Juneau, Alaska. Shown are, from left, Reps. Tammie Wilson, Steve Thompson, Jennifer Johnston, Pruitt and Chuck Kopp. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

More in News

A moose is photographed in Kalifornsky, Alaska, in July 2020. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Illegal moose harvest down from past 5 years

The large majority of moose this year were harvested from North and South Kasilof River areas.

Renee Behymer and Katelyn Behymer (right) of Anchorage win this week’s vaccine lottery college scholarship sweepstakes. (Photo provided)
Dillingham and Anchorage residents win 6th vaccine lottery

“Get it done,” one winner said. “Protect us all, protect our elders and our grandchildren.”

Kenai Vice Mayor and council member Bob Molloy (center), council member Jim Glendening (right), council member Victoria Askin (far right), and council member Henry Knackstedt (far left) participate in a work session discussing the overhaul of Kenai election codes on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska.
Kenai City Council gives sendoffs, certifies election results

Both council members-elect — Deborah Sounart and James Baisden — attended Wednesday.

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus. (CDC)
COVID is No. 3 underlying cause of death among Alaskans so far this year

The virus accounted for about 7.5% of all underlying causes of death after a review of death certificates.

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, speaks on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives during a floor debate on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021, over an appropriations bill during the Legislature’s third special session of the summer. Multiple organizations reported on Wednesday that Eastman is a lifetime member of the far-right organization the Oath Keepers. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Data leak shows state rep is member of far-right organization

Wasilla area lawmaker said he joined when Oath Keepers first started.

Christine Hutchison, who lives in Kenai and also serves on the Kenai Harbor Commission, testifies in support of the use of alternative treatments for COVID-19 during a meeting of the Kenai City Council on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Medical liberty’ petition brought to Kenai City Council

Some members of the public and Kenai City Council spoke against health mandates and in support of alternative treatments for COVID-19

Amber Kraxberger-Linson, a member of Trout Unlimited and streamwatch coordinator for the Chugach National Forest, works in the field in this undated photo. Kraxberger-Linson will be discussing at the Saturday, Oct. 23 International Fly Fishing Film Festival the organization’s educational programming for next summer. (Photo provided by Trout Unlimited)
Out on the water — and on the screen

Trout Unlimited to host fly fishing film festival Saturday.

This screen capture from surveillance footage released by the Anchorage Police Department shows a masked man vandalizing the Alaska Jewish Museum in Anchorage in May. (Courtesy photo / APD)
Museums statewide condemn antisemitic vandalism

Two incidents, one in May, one in September, have marred the museum this year.

Three speech language pathologists with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District were recognized for excellence during the Alaska Speech-Language-Hearing Association last month. (Kenai Peninsula Borough School District)
Peninsula speech language therapists awarded for excellence

“I was very honored to be recognized by my peers and colleagues,” Evans said in an interview with the Clarion.

Most Read