The Alaska State Capitol was quiet on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, with several lawmakers excused even as negotiations over the state’s budget continue. Lawmakers said they couldn’t say when the budget might be put to a vote, but talks were moving to the more contentious items in the budget.

The Alaska State Capitol was quiet on Wednesday, June 2, 2021, with several lawmakers excused even as negotiations over the state’s budget continue. Lawmakers said they couldn’t say when the budget might be put to a vote, but talks were moving to the more contentious items in the budget.

With nothing to vote on, many lawmakers head home

They’ll be back to vote, but budget talks are slow

There’s still no set date for when the Legislature might pass the state’s budget bill but leadership says the talks are now turning to the more contentious items in the budget.

“We’ve gotten through all the less contentious items and now we’re negotiating items that will take some time,” said Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, in an email. “We don’t have a target date set for close-out.”

Foster is chair of the bicameral conference committee currently negotiating a comprehensive budget bill for the state. As passed by the Senate the budget allocates an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend payout of $2,300, an amount requiring a draw of more than the statutory 5% of market value of the Earnings Reserve Account of the permanent fund.

Foster said the committee would be nearly halfway done with the operating budget by the end of Wednesday’s meeting and members had already finished the supplemental budget items.

While the conference committee negotiates the budget, the rest of the Legislature has been having committee meetings on the few items they’re allowed under Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s call to special session. But several lawmakers have excused absences throughout June. Although there are lawmakers in Juneau, many others have left the capital. The excused absences mean lawmakers don’t have to be present for whatever floor sessions may take place, but they can still choose to return for a vote if asked.

[Budget talks to resume Wednesday]

Only members of the conference committee are allowed input on the budget negotiations, but members are there to represent the interests of their caucus, and lawmakers not on the committee often attend its meetings.

“We’ve told members that as soon as we are done we will give them a day or two to fly down for a concurrence vote,” Foster said.

So far committee negotiations have not addressed divisive issues like the size of the permanent fund dividend. The state’s fiscal year ends at the end of the month and the special session ends June 19. The governor’s office has previously told the Empire the administration is confident that a budget can be passed before automatic layoff notices are triggered.

The House and Senate Judiciary and Legislative Budget and Audit committees are having joint meetings daily but are only allowed to hear testimony for certain items on the call of the special session. Lawmakers have been hearing testimony from various officials regarding the governor’s three proposed constitutional amendments, but haven’t taken any actions to amend the proposals. Some of those meetings are being held at legislative offices in Anchorage as well as the Capitol building.

Dunleavy’s amendments have received a mixed reaction from lawmakers as it creates the need for additional revenue without specifying where that money might come from. But several conservative lawmakers, Dunleavy included, have said they’re willing to consider some kind of tax, a significant departure from past positions.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

More in News

Nate Rochon cleans fish after dipnetting in the Kasilof River, on June 25, 2019, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
King closures continue; Kasilof dipnet opens Saturday

The early-run Kenai River king sport fishery remains closed, and fishing for kings of any size is prohibited

An "Al Gross for Congress" sign sits near the driveway to Gross’ home in Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday, June 21, 2022, after he announced plans to withdraw from the U.S. House race. Gross has given little explanation in two statements for why he is ending his campaign, and a woman who answered the door at the Gross home asked a reporter to leave the property. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Alaska judge rules Sweeney won’t advance to special election

JUNEAU — A state court judge ruled Friday that Alaska elections officials… Continue reading

Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion 
Soldotna City Manager Stephanie Queen listens to a presentation from Alaska Communications during a meeting of the Soldotna City Council on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska.
ACS pilots fiber program in certain peninsula neighborhoods

The fiber to the home service will make available the fastest internet home speeds on the peninsula

Nurse Tracy Silta draws a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the walk-in clinic at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling Highways in Soldotna, Alaska on Wednesday, June 9, 2021. COVID-19 vaccines for kids younger than 5 years old are now approved by both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
COVID shots for kids under 5 available at public health

Roughly 18 million kids nationwide will now be eligible to get their COVID vaccines.

Megan Mitchell, left, and Nick McCoy protest the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning of Roe v. Wade at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways on Friday, June 24, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Heartbroken’, ‘Betrayed’: Alaskans react to Roe decision

Supreme Court decision ends nearly 50 years of legally protected access to abortion

Demonstrators gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, June 24, 2022. The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion that had been in place nearly 50 years, a decision by its conservative majority to overturn the court’s landmark abortion cases. (AP Photo / Jose Luis Magana)
Alaskans react to Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade

The Supreme Court has ended constitutional protections for abortion.

Tara Sweeney, a Republican seeking the sole U.S. House seat in Alaska, speaks during a forum for candidates, May 12, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. (AP Photo/ Mark Thiessen)
Lawsuit says Sweeney should advance in Alaska US House race

The lawsuit says the fifth-place finisher in the special primary, Republican Tara Sweeney, should be put on the August special election ballot

Gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker stands in the Peninsula Clarion office on Friday, May 6, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska AFL-CIO endorses Walker, Murkowski, Peltola

The AFL-CIO is Alaska’s largest labor organization and has historically been one of its most powerful political groups

A portion of a draft letter from Jeffrey Clark is displayed as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol continues to reveal its findings of a year-long investigation, at the Capitol in Washington, Thursday, June 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Federal agents search Trump-era official’s home, subpoena GOP leaders

Authorities on Wednesday searched the Virginia home of Jeffrey Clark

Most Read