Q&A: Alaska Legislature opens special session

JUNEAU — The Alaska Legislature on Thursday convened a special session, called by Gov. Bill Walker, after failing to come to terms on a budget and plan for addressing the state’s multibillion-dollar deficit during an extended regular session.

 

Here is a look at what has happened so far and what lies ahead in the session scheduled to last up to 30 days.


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What has happened so far?

House and Senate leaders early on laid out plans for addressing the deficit that are significantly different. After four months in session, there is little indication that either side is willing to yield on what it sees as the best path forward.

The House and Senate have proposed using earnings from the state’s oil-wealth fund, the Alaska Permanent Fund, to help cover costs but disagree on what else is needed.

What are the plans?

The House majority coalition, composed largely of Democrats, has insisted on a broad-based tax, like an income tax, and broader changes to oil tax and credit policy than the Senate has supported as part of an overall solution.

Meanwhile, the Republican-led Senate, which rejected the House’s income tax bill, has proposed limits on future state spending and cuts to public education and the university system that the House majority opposes.

House coalition members say any plan that relies on permanent fund earnings alone is unacceptable because it wouldn’t be balanced and would hit lower-income Alaskans especially hard.

Both House and Senate permanent fund bills would change how the annual dividend Alaskans receive from the fund is calculated and initially limit its size.

Now what?

Senate Finance Committee Co-chair Lyman Hoffman said work should focus on what lawmakers agree upon first.

On the tax issue, Hoffman’s co-chair, Anna MacKinnon, said that if the House has a different revenue measure in mind, the Senate would be happy to consider it. But she said the Senate is focused for now on a spending cap.

Walker’s special session agenda allows lawmakers to consider increasing an existing tax or establishing a new broad-based tax to generate new revenue for a state that has long relied on heavily volatile oil revenues.

Walker told reporters he’d consider amending the agenda, to add a specific tax proposal, if he felt talks on that topic weren’t being productive.

House Speaker Bryce Edgmon said the tension and ante have been upped now that lawmakers are in special session. The Dillingham Democrat has noted repeatedly that the issues being debated are significant and not easily resolved.

“If we don’t do things right this session it’s going to cost us in the future,” he said.

What else is on the agenda?

It includes the budget, permanent fund legislation, oil tax and credit legislation, a bill addressing opioid prescriptions and one that would increase motor fuels taxes. The opioid legislation was proposed by Walker.

Sen. John Coghill said he was disappointed the agenda did not include a bill that contained what were seen as more substantive changes to criminal justice legislation passed last year. But the North Pole Republican said he understands the need for a narrow focus.

The Legislature did pass what were billed as technical fixes to the law.

Daniel Donkel 4 days ago
Some say Alaska is now known as a scam and a plce with no reasonable rule of law or honor with $60 billion in the PF and the CBR savings and they want to tax the people and take the PFD check away and not pay the promised tax credit! Alaska needs a good name if it wants to attract oil and gas investors!

Alaska voters can save the state if they tell them to pay these bills with the billions of dollars in the CBR and wait to next year's election and let the people control the state not big oil, the lobbyist and a few bad paid off legislators!

They don't seem to care about the people of the state, they are destroying the oil and gas industry and the economy as more layoffs and less jobs prevail unless you are talking about working for moving company, some say it is the moving business the Governor and this legislature can best grow, as they kill the goose that lays the golden eggs! 

People are selling their houses as fast as they can because TAPS will shut down then it will take decades to come out of the bad faith induced depression! 

No one can trust Alaska to invest in, after the bait and switch veto, Alaska will always be remembered by investors world wide for the trick they did with the cashable earned tax. 

Alaska said we want more oil so TAPS does't shut down and Alaska wants more oil and gas royalty so we will make a deal if you spend your risk money we will give you cash back like a rebate but they fooled these poor smaller oil companies and Apollo and others!
Daniel Donkel 2 days ago
Governor and Legislators here is a plan that will cause debate
(A.) Alaska has changed it oil and and tax laws once every other year and no investor can trust the state so now it is time to eliminate all tax credits and all tax and vote for a constitutional amendment to not change the tax laws for 30 years on natural resources so investor will use risk money to find and produce oil so Alaska's Trans Alaska Pipeline will be filled and give the state three times more money then the current tax system and triple the PFD checks for all Alaskans! Alaska has over 50 million acres that can be explored so Drill Baby Drill.
(B.) Eliminate all oil & gas Agencies and form one that elects seven Commissioners every 4 years that has all power over all natural resources and manages a self insured state so no bonds or c-plans are needed and clean seas contracts for this new oil and gas agency called  The Alaska Rail Road Commission much like Texas!
(C.) All Natural Resources disputes have jury rights!
Michael Bishop 2 days ago
Or become Mississippi real soon. These bought and paid for legislative oil schills have foundered this once mighty . We need term limits not robber baron lawyers bent on stealing the permanent fund and destroying Alaskas economy for decades to come.

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