Not a single cut. Not one more position in Alaska State government’s 18,000+ workforce can be eliminated, according to the new majority caucus in charge of the House of Representatives.
The Democrats and the three exiled musk ox Republicans in control are not allowing any budget amendments to be made in the governor’s proposed $4.2 billion general fund budget. Not if they are reductions — not one position, and not one program.
Instead, they’ve actually grown the governor’s budget to $5.07 billion. Some of that increase is because they have added money back to the Permanent Fund Dividend program.
The House gaveled in this afternoon and started working through what is expected to be hundreds of surgical budget reductions that were recently offered by Republicans and rejected by Democrats in House Finance Committee, where the D’s are also firmly in control. Rep. Paul Seaton of Homer co-chairs that committee. He is a Republican who has been exiled from the party for aligning with Democrats in exchange for a powerful position.
One by one, those budget cuts that died in committee died a second death on the House floor today. The process will begin again at 9 am on Tuesday, as more amendments are offered. They’ll likely die too, along caucus lines, but it could take hours, as each one is subject to debate.
The Democrats and the three “musk ox” Republicans who joined them to form a majority originally told the public that everything is on the table regarding the budget, but apparennly that didn’t mean real cuts such as these, which they rejected soundly:
- $250,000 – Amendment 1 would have cut a new program offered by the governor that would have encouraged school districts to work together to promote innovative thinking. Republicans said that is something schools ought to be doing already.
- $200,000 – Amendment 2 would have cut the equivalent of 1.25 positions from the Alaska Marine Highway System. Democrats Sam Kito and Neal Foster said that would imperil the system.
- $137,000 – The Legislature’s personal cooks. Republicans wanted to let go of these positions in the legislative lounge; Democrats said no.
- $400,000 – Amendment 15 – The Governor’s House contingency fund, which has $550,000 budgeted for broken glass, frozen pipes, or some other repairs that might need to be made to the Governor’s Mansion. Republicans wanted to leave $150,000 in that fund. Democrats said no, the entire amount cannot be touched.
On Tuesday, the Democrats running the calendar in the House of Representatives have cancelled most committee meetings so the House can take up the rest of the hundreds of amendments that are expected to be offered by Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, and Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Chugiak-Wasilla, two of the Republican minority’s budget workhorses.
As she did today, Wilson will pop up from her seat time and again and cheerfully offer the House a strategic surgical cut to consider. A few Republicans will chime in on the importance of the cuts. Democrats will stand to defend the spending.
And on a 22-18 vote along caucus lines, Democrats, trans-Party Reps. Dan Ortiz of Ketchikan and Jason Grenn of Anchorage, and their three Republican musk ox will vote each one down, as they did today.
But, House Republicans will be unified on record offering a different vision of the Alaska state budget than House Democrats and their musk oxen enablers.
You can watch the proceedings on GavelAlaska beginning at 9 am.