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Governor Calls 5th Special Session After House Adjourns Without a Fiscal Plan to Protect Alaska Economy



June 20, 2016
Monday PM

(SitNews) Juneau, Alaska - After the Alaska House of Representatives on Friday night closed out the Fourth Special Session of the 29th Alaska Legislature without making any substantial progress towards creating a balanced and sustainable plan to address the ongoing fiscal crisis in Alaska, Governor Bill Walker followed with an announcement on Sunday that he is calling the Legislature back into a fifth special session. The 5th Special Session will take place in Juneau on July 11, 2016 at 11:00 AM.

The House Finance Committee's failure to move SB 128 to a full vote of the Alaska House of Representatives could mean a further downgrade in Alaska's credit rating, as the state could see lost earnings from a draw in savings by not pooling financial assets and continued depletion of Alaska's budget reserves.

The Fourth Special Session of the 29th Alaska Legislature was called by Governor Walker with a set agenda that included several revenue measures, the FY 2017 budgets, and a handful of important bills that failed to garner legislative approval during the regular session. The House adjourned without passing any of the revenue measures they were called into the Fourth Special Session to consider by the Governor.

The Governor during Sunday's news conference announcing the 5th Special Session, to view the video of the news conference, click on this link

Governor Walker issued a prepared statement Saturday regarding adjournment by the House saying, "“I am deeply disappointed that, after more than a year of conversations with Alaskans and more than 400 meetings with legislators about our fiscal problems, SB 128, a critical piece of legislation for Alaska’s future, never made it to the House floor for a vote. With a $4 billion deficit, it is time we pull together as Alaskans to address this fiscal deficit now. Again, I thank members of the Senate for their leadership on this critical issue and their passage of SB 128.”

Regarding questions about can Alaska afford another special session, Governor Walker said, "We can not afford not to have a special session." A Special Session costs about $13 Thousand per day and the deficit is about $11 million a day said the Governor.

The Governor's Executive Special Session Proclamation dated June 19th again lists the subjects to be addressed by the Legislature in the Fifth Special Session:

  1. An act relating to the Alaska Permanent Fund and the earnings reserve account for purposes of a sustainable draw; relating to the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend, and to the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation;
  2. An act relating to a personal income tax, a sales and use tax, the motor fuel tax, the excise tax on alcoholic beverages, the mining license tax and fees, the mining exploration incentive tax credit, the fisheries business tax, the fishery resource landing tax, the annual base fee for entry or interim-use permits, and relating to refunds to local governments and to taxes on tobacco products;
  3. An act relating to the oil and gas production tax, tax payments, and credits; relating to oil and gas lease expenditures, and production tax credits for municipal entities, and relating to the interest applicable to delinquent taxes.

Members of the Alaska Senate Majority expressed disappointment Friday in ?the House Finance Committee's failure to move SB 128 to a full vote of the Alaska House of Representatives. The Alaska Senate Majority said in a news release SB 128 is a critical measure that would close a portion of the budget shortfall while preserving the Permanent Fund dividend.

"We are facing uncertain times. SB 128 provided some level of certainty to help stabilize our economy and continue the divided program Alaskans have grown to rely on," said Sen. Anna MacKinnon (R-Eagle River), co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. "The tough decisions have only just begun. We will continue to change the status quo and business as usual. The Senate stands ready to act."

In a news release, the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition (AIDC) said the 13 members of the AIDC remain committed to working on a comprehensive fiscal plan that will protect the Alaska economy and the essential functions of state government.

The Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition was instrumental in the deal in May that allowed for passage of a fully funded budget that prevented a government shutdown on June 1st and protected the important tourism, commercial fishing, and construction industries that are all vital aspects of the overall Alaska economy.

“I am so proud of my colleagues in the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition because we stepped in and reached a deal that fully funded the budget and rolled back those harmful cuts. We are going to continue working on solutions and I hope the members of the Majority will join us in that effort,” said House Education Committee member Rep. Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage).

“I want a comprehensive fiscal plan that represents what’s best for our shared future as Alaskans. Such a plan must protect jobs, the economy, and our Alaska way of life,” said Rep. Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage). “Sadly, lawmakers have been unable to consider a plan that meets that test. When we reconvene again, we must seriously embrace comprehensive solutions that fairly share the burden and represent what’s best for the many rather that what’s convenient for the few.”

Senate Democrats were also disappointed at the lack of a comprehensive fiscal plan to emerge from the 4th Special Session before it was adjourned Friday night.

Senate Minority Leader Berta Gardner (D) said in a prepared statement, "From the very beginning, the Senate Democrats have said that the most important thing for the legislature to do this session is pass a comprehensive fiscal plan for the state. The plan must be fair, and not disproportionately affect the Alaskans least able to bear a financial hit. As we head toward our fifth special session, I hope that my colleagues take this philosophy to heart and that we can come together to craft a workable fiscal solution for Alaska's future. Doing nothing is not acceptable. We have once again been offered the chance to get it right. I hope we take it."

Senator Bill Wielechowski (D) said in a statement prepared Sunday, "I am extremely disappointed in the Senate Majority's refusal to get the job done. The Senate Majority's solution to the state's fiscal gap was nothing more than a grab for the earnings of the Permanent Fund - the place that hits average Alaskans hardest and leaves the most advantaged, and oil companies held harmless. We can and we must do better in the upcoming special session. I am hopeful that the Governor will veto HB247, and that we pass a strong bill to limit oil tax subsidies and fix the glaring problems in our oil tax structure before we take from Alaskans' pockets to pay for it."


Source of News:

Office of Governor Bill Walker

Alaska Senate Majority

Alaska Senate Minority


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