The Alaska Senate on Saturday unanimously approved Capital Budget items in Senate Bill 2002, introduced by Gov. Michael Dunleavy.
But then came Sunday, and a vote that went nowhere in the House, as the amount of the Permanent Fund dividend, which had nothing to do with the Capital Budget per se, became the stumbling block.
The Capital Budget passed the House 26-6 on Sunday, but then, with five votes short of the amount needed to access the funding for it, the measure failed to move forward.
Nearly $1 billion in matched federal funding is at stake for construction projects, as well as funding for rural energy subsidies, and more. The bill also contains money for this year’s Alaska Performance Scholarships for college students.
This is the second time that the House has failed to get a supermajority vote that would allow the Legislature to access the Constitutional Budget Reserve. The holdouts in the House say the Legislature must first pass a $3,000 Permanent Fund dividend, before they will allow access to the CBR. They are working one of the last levers they have to get that money into the hands of Alaskans.
The House minority is also blocking the majority from enacting what is known as a “reverse sweep.” That would usher funds back into specific state programs that had their unspent funds “swept” into the Constitutional Budget Reserve at the end of the fiscal year, due to legislative inaction.
There were several members with pre-excused absences on Sunday, including conservative members of the Republican minority: Reps. Sara Rasmussen, Mark Neuman, Ben Carpenter, George Rauscher, Dave Talerico, Josh Revak, Laddie Shaw, and Ben Carpenter.
The Legislature has been in session for the better part of 187 days this year, more than six months altogether. The current special session could run into the first week of August.
The funding mechanism for the Capital Budget is expected to be voted on again Monday during the 10 am floor session.