Chenault: Chances of getting out on time 'slim’

House Speaker Mike Chenault

JUNEAU — Chances are slim that lawmakers will finish their work and leave Juneau by the Legislature’s scheduled April 15 adjournment date, House Speaker Mike Chenault said Friday.

“I can almost guarantee you, that with a week left, we’re not going to be done,” he said.

The House has yet to see an oil tax bill. Chenault said he’s not going to force his committees to hear a bill “with the ramifications that a new oil tax bill could have and try to ram something through in a week just so we could be done.”

Senate committees have been working on the issue since February. Senate President Gary Stevens said in a statement Friday that legislative consultants are expected back before the Senate Finance Committee on Monday to answer questions about some of the modeling that they’ve done for the Senate oil tax proposal.

He said the Senate can’t pass something that isn’t ready yet. “We need to take the time to get this right, and I think everyone agrees with that,” he said.

Once the House gets the bill, it will hear and vet it, Chenault said.

“I’m not going to pull what (the Senate) did with HB110 last year and just table it and not take it up,” he said. HB110 is the governor’s tax cut plan. The House passed the measure last session, but the Senate refused to follow suit, with leaders saying they didn’t have enough information to make a sound policy call.

Chenault said it is important to Alaska’s future — and to the state’s revenue stream — to look at whatever the Senate passes and see if it encourages new investment. Alaska relies heavily on oil revenues, and oil production has been declining.

Other outstanding bills, with just over a week left, include the state operating and capital budgets. A conference committee on the operating budget has been announced. The Senate Finance Committee is crafting a capital budget.

Additional education funding also must be hashed out to help districts deal with added costs. And one of Chenault’s priority bills, aimed at keeping the momentum behind an in-state natural gas pipeline project, is in the first of three scheduled committees on the Senate side.

The House plans no floor sessions this holiday weekend, while the Senate plans to meet Saturday to take up bills relating to a Nome office building and death certificates for veterans, as well as a resolution related to commercial fisheries programs.

The Senate Finance Committee also is scheduled to meet Saturday.

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