SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Budget negotiations at stalemate, Governor begins work on compromise


June 02, 2017
Friday PM

(SitNews) Juneau, Alaska - There is no reason lawmakers cannot complete their work within the current special session said Governor Bill Walker this morning in a prepared statement.

Walker said, “Today is the 16th day of a 30-day special session - after a 121-day regular session. I convened the legislature to broker a compromise that fixes our fiscal crisis for good and closes this year’s budget deficit. In doing so, I indicated that I was confident the House and Senate could reach a solution. But, I also said: if significant progress was not made by the time layoff notices went out, I would step in."

Yesterday, Alaskans were notified of a potential government shutdown if a budget compromise is not reached before July 1st. Walker said, "My team and I have recently met with all four legislative caucuses to ascertain the status of special session negotiations. After meeting with leadership members from the House and Senate Majorities and Minorities, it is clear negotiations have reached a stalemate."

"A government shutdown is unacceptable, and compromise is essential," said Walker. The Governor said he and his team begun work on a compromise package from concepts currently on the table, and he intends to present the compromise to all four caucuses next week.

Walker said, " Alaskans deserve economic stability, and a fiscal solution that can withstand volatile oil prices and production. We must do all we can to remove the cloud of uncertainty that hangs over our state.”

Following the Governor's announcement, Senate President Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks) also released a statement.

Kelly said, “The Senate Majority is prioritizing negotiations on an operating budget above all else. The clock is ticking; 19,000 Alaskans and their families have their jobs on the line, with thousands more Alaskans and businesses searching for certainty and stability that the Legislature can provide with a budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1."

“The Senate is committed to delivering that certainty to Alaskans and our economy," said Kelly. "We will continue to work with the House next week on a prioritized budget and, secondarily, on the other items on the special session agenda."

Kelly said, “We believe we have made and will continue to make progress toward compromises on the items which have consensus. Multiple conference committees are setting schedules for action next week, and we anticipate public notice of those meetings soon."

“An operating budget and stabilization of our fiscal problems, including the elimination of cashable oil credits, remain our priorities, and we believe these items are matters of consensus that we can find a compromise on with our colleagues in the House,” said Kelly.

With two weeks until the end of the special session, with zero progress evident between the Senate and House majorities on reaching a deal on a comprehensive plan, the Alaska AFK-CIO is making plans to hold rallies across the state on June 11th to keep Alaska open for business.

According to a news release from Vince Beltrami, President of Alaska AFL-CIO, and Jim Duncan, Secretary-Treasurer AK-AFL-CIO, over the past eighteen months, credit rating agencies, businesses, economists, chambers of commerce, labor organizations, foundations, and an assortment of diverse coalitions and people of all political stripes around the state have concurred that a comprehensive fiscal plan is necessary to deal with the state’s $2.5 billion budget deficit.

“Hope is not a strategy,” said Vince Beltrami, president of the Alaska AFL-CIO. “The priorities of the Senate Majority are out of whack. While hundreds of teachers lost their jobs last week and contemplate having to leave the state for jobs Outside, the Senate Majority has proposed an austerity plan that will undoubtedly and unnecessarily prolong and deepen the state’s recession. It is past time to get the job done and set Alaska on a path to diverse longterm fiscal stability and a new time of economic prosperity. That won’t happen until we are on sound fiscal footing.”

Quoting the Alaska AFL-CIO news release, Governor Walker and the House Majority Coalition have done the heavy lifting, working diligently in proposing and passing a plan that includes budget reductions, a structured use of Permanent Fund earnings, and new broad-based revenue. The Senate majority on the other hand has only passed one fiscal measure all session, which would still leave a hole in the budget approaching a billion dollars, while hoping oil prices recover.

The Alaska AFL-CIO, will hold simultaneous rallies at 1:00 pm on June 11th in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Juneau encouraging lawmakers to come up with a plan they can agree on before the scheduled June 16th end of the current special session. A government shutdown looms just two weeks later on July 1st if a deal is not reached.

Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives, Rep. Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham) said in a prepared statement, “The pink slips that nearly 20,000 state workers received this week have cast a shadow of doubt over households throughout the state. This uncertainty affects not only Alaskans employed directly by the state, but also many employed in the private sector, from realtors to commercial fishermen, who rely on state services daily in order to engage in their profession.”

“The House Majority Coalition is determined to end this period of uncertainty, avoid a state government shutdown, and reach a fair and sensible compromise with the Senate,”  said Edgmon.

Edgmon said, “Alaskans have had enough of the strain in their lives that eleventh-hour negotiations cause, and we know that. This is the third year in a row that budget negotiations have spilled over into special sessions. Nothing could better underscore the need to balance the budget and return the state to enduring fiscal stability. Reaching the right solutions in the coming days will finally put an end to year after year of session overtime and the stresses that puts on Alaskans.”

“Negotiations between the House and Senate leadership have been ongoing throughout the special session. Next week, conference committees for the Operating Budget and the oil & gas tax reform bill are scheduled to meet. They are focused on finding common ground and forging agreements,” said Edgmon.


On the Web:

Information about Alaska AFL-CIO rally locations



Reporting and Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews



Source of News:

Office of Governor Bill Walker

Office of the Alaska Senate Majority

Alaska AFL-CIO



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Ketchikan, Alaska

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