REPUBLICAN MINORITY BLOCKS GETTING INTO CONSTITUTIONAL BUDGET RESERVE
The Alaska House passed the state’s 2019 operating budget on Monday.
Although the numbers are still not pinned down, the Undesignated General Fund operating budget is believed to be about $4.5 billion, or about a six percent increase in (UGF) agency spending over the state’s FY18 management plan.
The House, deeply divided, didn’t pass the way to pay for it, which requires cracking into the Constitutional Budget Reserve. A gap of between $750-780 million remains.
Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux voted against the budget, but since it’s a “free caucus,” she faces no consequence among her Democrat Party peers. As the chair of Rules for the Democratic-controlled majority, she was given a pass because she likely faces a tough election. Reps. Geran Tarr and Sam Kito, both solid Democrats, were unhappy that their Republican Rules chair was given the ability to vote no, forcing them to vote yes.
Kito made his displeasure known by voting against the will of the Democratic majority, and against drawing from the Constitutional Budget Reserve. He is not running for re-election.
Tapping the CBR takes a three-quarters vote from each body.
The budget will go to the Senate, then will have to get hammered out in conference committee.
In the budget is the $1,600 Permanent Fund dividend and a $1.6 billion drawdown from the Earnings Reserve Account of the Alaska Permanent Fund. That fund only requires a simple majority to access.
But that still leaves the $750-780 million gap. It is not unusual for the House minority — whether Republican or Democrat — to block accessing the CBR, as it is used as a bargaining tool.
(This story was updated on April 3).