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Alaska lawmakers face special session amid budget impasse

17 June 2017

Late Thursday, following months of entrenchment and bickering, a divided House voted to insert a state operating budget into the capital budget and adjourned from the special session a day before it was scheduled to end.

"It was pretty clear to us at this time that we were not able to reach an agreement soon enough on all the pieces that would compose a comprehensive fiscal plan", said House Speaker Rep. Bryce Edgmon, (D) Dillingham. The Republican minority caucus strongly protested.

The new House budget contains some concessions, accepting $8 million of the Senate's proposed $22m cut to the state university system along with a $15m Senate cut to the Medicaid health-care program for the poor and disabled. The House had pushed an operating budget through the night before then adjourned sine die, leaving the Senate few options.

Debate on whether to approve the entire spending package was under way in the House.

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House Finance Committee Co-chair Paul Seaton, R-Homer, said the House coalition tried to reach fiscal solutions based on good public policy.

Governor Walker will call for a second special session on Friday to broker a deal on an operating budget before the July 1st government shutdown. Such a plan is simply unfair and places the sole burden of filling the over $2 billion budget gap on every man, woman, and child in Alaska without balanced contributions from the oil industry or the thousands of out-of-state workers.

Alaska Senate President Pete Kelly says he's "very encouraged" at progress being made as lawmakers near the end of the current special session.

Gov. Bill Walker said the House "did not get the job done for Alaska". "A compromise is required to protect Alaskans and put the state on a stable fiscal path", Walker said. The special session is scheduled to end Friday.

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Gov. Bill Walker limited the new special session, at least initially, to the state operating budget, with the threat of a government shutdown looming. He said the consequences of a shutdown would be devastating.

Late Thursday, over the objection of minority Republicans, the House majority coalition voted to cram a budget to fund state operations into Alaska's capital budget. Instead, the House Majority chose to reject compromise, placing the state at risk for a government shutdown.

Without a budget, the state government will shut down in two weeks.

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