A floor session of the Alaska House of Representatives was delayed Thursday, May 12, 2022, as lawmakers discussed in private how to move forward with a packed budget bill passed by the Alaska Senate. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

With thin margins in the House, floor debate is delayed

Vote on budget some call ‘irresonsible’ could be close

By Peter Segall

Juneau Empire

Floor debate on the state’s budget bill was delayed Thursday as members of the House of Representatives met in private to discuss a path forward.

With the House Majority Coalition’s thin 21-member majority, some lawmakers are concerned the large budget passed by the Senate this week could pass the body. House floor sessions were canceled Wednesday evening and delayed Thursday morning as lawmakers discussed the situation. The floor session was eventually canceled Thursday afternoon, and rescheduled for 10 a.m. Friday.

“The speaker is working to ensure that the budget that reaches the governor’s desk is fiscally responsible,” said coalition spokesperson Joe Plesha. “She remains committed to the values outlined in the budget the House passed — putting money into savings to prepare for the eventual drop in oil prices and investing in Alaska’s children by forward funding education and refilling the Higher Education Investment Fund.”

Wednesday, the Senate passed a large budget some have criticized as irresponsible. In floor debate Monday and Tuesday, senators added nearly $1 billion to the state’s budget, diverting the money appropriated to forward fund education to pay an additional $1,300 energy relief payment in addition to the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend.

In a close vote 10-9 vote, senators for the first time since 2015 voted to follow the state’s statutory formula for the PFD, amounting to roughly $4,300 per Alaskan. Following the statutory formula for the dividend has been a consistent demand of several, mostly Republican members of the Legislature and Gov. Mike Dunleavy, also a Republican. Sen. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla, who submitted the amendment to follow the formula said the state is looking at record returns on oil, and this year’s budget was bolstered by federal stimulus funds.

[Senate tables restrictive transgender sports bill]

The House had passed an operating budget in April that included two years of funding for the state’s education system and put more than $1 billion into state savings accounts.

Several senators called the budget reckless, but the bill still received a 15-5 vote in the Senate. Following the vote, Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, said it was unlikely the House would approve the Senate’s bill and that negotiations in a conference committee would bring amounts in the budget down.

But the House only needs 21 votes out of 40 to concur on the bill, and 21 is how many members the House Majority Coalition has. Several Republicans have pushed for a statutory dividend for years and Democrats such as Rep. Geran Tarr, Anchorage, have voted for similar proposals in the past.

In an email, Dunleavy spokesperson Jeff Turner said the governor was meeting with leadership from all four legislative caucuses.

“(Dunleavy) is committed to working with lawmakers on a spending plan that can receive legislative approval by May 18, the constitutional deadline for this year’s legislative session,” Turner said.

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

More in News

Vehicles are unleaded at the Seward Harbor after being moved from Lowell Point on Sunday, May 22, 2022 in Seward, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management)
Lowell Point barge services move 110-plus cars to Seward

The services were covered by the Kenai Peninsula Borough and ended Monday

Anglers fish on the Kenai River on Tuesday, June 29, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O'Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Watershed Forum receives matching grant from Conoco

The Kenai Watershed Forum was given a grant from ConocoPhillips to fund… Continue reading

A beach on the eastern side of Cook Inlet is photographed at Clam Gulch, Alaska, in June 2019. The Alaska Board of Fisheries is implementing new shellfish regulations in Cook Inlet. (Peninsula Clarion file)
Fish and Game closes East Cook Inlet razor clam fisheries

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has closed the Cook Inlet… Continue reading

Anastasia Scollon (left) and Willow King (right) stand in The Goods + Sustainable Grocery and Where it’s At mindful food and drink on Monday, May 16, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Sustainable shopping finds new home in Soldotna

The Collective used to operate out of Cook Inletkeeper’s Community Action Studio

The Alaska State Capitol is seen on Wednesday, April 6, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Legislature modernizes 40-year-old definition of consent in sexual assault cases

‘Alaska took a gargantuan step forward in updating our laws,’ says deputy attorney general

Project stakeholders cut a ribbon at the Nikiski Shelter of Hope on Friday, May 20, 2022, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Stakeholders celebrate opening of Nikiski shelter

The shelter officially opened last December

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks with reporters Thursday about the state’s budget at the Alaska State Capitol. Dunleavy said lawmakers had sent a complete budget, and that there was no need for a special session.
Dunleavy: No need for special session

Governor calls budget “complete”

A magnet promoting the Alaska Reads Act released sits atop a stack of Alaskan-authored and Alaska-centric books. Lawmakers passed the Alaska Reads Act on the last day of the legislative session, but several members of the House of Representatives were upset with the bill, and the way it was passed. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
In last-minute move, Legislature passes early reading overhaul

Rural lawmakers push back on Alaska Reads Act

Graduates wait to receive diplomas during Connections Homeschool’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 19, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Connections honors more than 100 graduates

The home-school program held a ceremony Thursday in Soldotna

Most Read