Alaska House in disarray, Edgmon tries to answer - Must Read Alaska
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Thursday, September 19, 2019
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Alaska House in disarray, Edgmon tries to answer

The budget solution doesn’t stop with Speaker Bryce Edgmon.

In an odd press conference today, Edgmon appeared alone, without any of his House majority colleagues, and explained that the buck stops with the House Republican minority, not the majority.

As he sat in the Speaker’s Chambers, facing questions from reporters, he said he doesn’t consider the budget a responsibility of just the majority.

The conservative minority was obstructing progress, he said.

Reporters were not buying it. Even Rich Mauer, the notoriously liberal journalist now reporting for KTUU, seemed skeptical.

“We need to have the difficult discussion on new revenues, I think that is very apparent,” Edgmon said, restating his party’s view that there is a need for an income tax to pay for what has become, under his watch, a $5 billion budget.

An income tax solution is not apparent to House Republicans. The conservative minority had offered dozens of amendments last week to lower the overall budget. On Monday, both liberals and conservatives voted across caucus lines to boost the Permanent Fund dividend to $2,700 this year.

That much was agreed on by a slim majority that felt it was time to go back to the time-honored formula for calculating the dividend.

House Minority Charisse Millett had earlier offered a different view of reality.

Millett had told a reporter from KTOO: “The three Republicans organized with the Democrats and independents because they had the plan. They had the votes. They were all aligned on Alaska’s future. And we’re seeing now that the alignment is not there. Unfortunately, when you are in leadership, and you’re the Speaker, it’s your obligation with 22 people to get the budget passed with 21.”

Edgmon didn’t like that characterization, answering, “I don’t reduce this to sort of carping about majority and minority politics and being more part of the problem, as opposed to part of the solution.”

But he admitted the body is at an impasse. “I’m trying to find a way that we get an operating budget passed, that we somehow find a consensus point between the many competing viewpoints, not just on the budget itself, but on the annual Permanent Fund dividend,” he said.

It wasn’t long, however, before Edgmon blamed Republicans for blocking the majority’s will to enact an income tax, as it has tried to do for two years.

“The minority is not willing to come to consensus. Their whole goal is to obstruct, to delay, to stymie,” he said.

“You’re not going to hear me in the media throwing political salvos at [Millett’s] coalition or anyone for that matter because that’s not going to get us closer to the solution at this point.”

Edgmon went on to say that a larger dividend, such as the one approved by a slim majority of the House on Monday, was not likely to be sustainable into the future.

HOUSE MAJORITY RUNNING OUT OF RUNWAY

Edgmon had begun his remarks by admitting the House was in a budget impasse that “has been obvious to everyone.”

“Our coalition, we took the political risk last year and we’re at the point where we’ve not been able to find the consensus to get the operating budget off the floor.”

Earlier in the day, Edgmon was forced to conduct a “technical session,” essentially gaveling in and out without getting work done because of the chaos in his caucus.

But even that was a struggle for the Democratic-controlled majority.

Why not a regular session on Day 72? If no House floor session today, would it be likely to pass a budget on Good Friday? Easter Monday? Or is the House really willing to hand over the operating budget to the Senate on Day 80, leaving the Senate only 10 days to process the funding plan for state services next year?

In that scenario, the 120-day session is almost a certainty.

And yet Wednesday’s House meltdown was worse when the technical session suddenly had a quorum, and business might have been conducted.

When all 17 Republican members showed up for the technical session, with their sleeves rolled up and ready to work, four of the Democrats also showed up. It was a miscount on the Speaker and House Majority Leader Chris Tuck’s part.

Work could actually get done.

Speaker Edgmon hastily called an at-ease so he could shoo Rep. Daniel Ortiz from the House Chamber, therefore ensuring Edgmon did not have enough members to conduct business.

Then Rep. Harriet Drummond walked out of the Chambers, to give added insurance there would not be a quorum.

The House Democrat-led majority starts Thursday in a state of disarray, having ended Wednesday unable to even figure out how many people they need to not show up in order for them to not get any business done.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • The Dividend poisons every budget debate. Let’s end it this year with a final $3000 and reinstate a very low income and head tax in 2019. Everybody wins and everybody contributes in a fair and logical way.
    Let’s pay the oil tax credits 100%.
    Let’s begin re-filling the CBR as required by the Constitution.
    Let’s start a policy of fiscal discipline to withdraw 4% or less of PF value annually from the Earnings Reserve for the budget gap. The less we withdraw the faster the PF grows.
    And finally, restructure the dividend to individual trust accounts for the purpose of education, health care, and retirement with whatever amount of annual contribution the Legislature approves each year.

  • Angry beyond belief. His actions border on criminal. Anyone paying any attention knows what the problem is and it starts with three dishonest “politicians” (In the worst sense of the word) betraying their constituents and running on one platform knowing full well they would abandon it once in office.

    Passing the budget is not a revenue problem, it is a spending problem.

    This session will go down in history as one of the most corrupt and dishonest gatherings in recent memory.

    • I am running against Edgmon for Representative of District 37, as I did two years ago.
      Last time, I received 40% of the vote. This time, I aim to get 60%.
      Please help me defeat Edgmon.
      http://www.williamweatherby.com
      Paid for by Weatherby for District 37. PO Box 611, King Salmon, AK. 99613

  • The democrats and Walker have painted themselves into a corner.
    The only thing that conservatives need to do is just say-no. And continue to say no until such time the democrats come to their senses and seriously reduce spending and cut the workforce to fiscally sustainable levels. What happened to day is a really sad state of affairs.

  • When the speaker points his finger at the Minority Coalition three other fingers are pointing back at himself.

  • The last two legislative sessions have been a joke and the only ones laughing are the legislative body themselves. And, the taxpayers pay the cost because they can’t get their work done on time! They should not be able to collect per diem after 90 days!!

  • How about cutting pay from the top % government workers, and make sure they don’t let the bottom get cut off. I know in the big cities like Anchorage and Fairbanks the gas prices went down, so why pay them so much? And how about taxing the richest people in Alaska? Maybe we need to start electing people who work for the people, and not the rich.

    • It is not a “rich vs poor” problem. It is a “people who use power to control you vs people who just want to be left along to live their lives” problem. You open the door to taxation by yelling “Tax the rich!”, and they’ll soon be taxing YOU.

  • These elected officials that walked out, should be arrested. They are there to work for the people, if they walk out cause they don’t agree. Than they shouldn’t be in that seat. Maybe they’re watching out for themselves, and not the people.

  • I said it last year and it still rings true, the House Majority Leadership has failed. They’ve failed the House Majority members, they’ve failed the government they serve, they’ve failed their constituents, they’ve failed Alaskans, and they’ve failed Alaska.

    It is far too late now but the House Majority should have replaced their leadership last year or before this year. The House Majority as a whole with a majority of Democrats has failed all of Alaska, once again.

    For shame!

  • For years, the Democrat minority in the House extracted BILLIONS of dollars of INCREASED spending from the Republican House majority to permit approval of the operating budget. Now the shoe is on the other foot. This is most fun to watch. It remains the case that the party the Speaker is aligned with still supports more spending and more taxes. All the patrons of the Democratic party and the fat-cat Juneau bureaucrats will be hurt by a government shutdown. Speaker Edgmon needs to spend some time looking in the mirror. Hopefully, it will not take too long for him to understand that it is his majority’s term to compromise to secure the necessary minority support. This will be fun to watch.

  • WARNING. The Speaker has lost his sense of humor and doesn’t seem to be enjoying the job. I ran into him in the Capitol Building, asked him if he would autograph my copy of the Juneau Empire insert on the Alaska Legislature – the one that has him as Speaker, includes Westlake and Fansler, and has the pictures of Olson and Hoffman switched. Thought I might one day sell it on EBay. Let me tell you, Edgmon has no sense of humor at all this week!

  • Work could actually get done. OH NO.

  • They have brought this upon themselves! Hahaha!!! ROFL!!!

  • The fact that Dan Ortiz left at the direction of someone determined not to have a quoarm tells us that he’s a snake. A despicable fraud. Leaders gathered to conduct business and one leaves to hinder advancement. TREASONOUS!!!

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