Sen. Natasha von Imhof, in an impassioned but brief speech on the Senate floor today, implored her colleagues to vote in favor of the operating budget. Eventually they did, but not before a reconsideration vote, and even then, the budget didn’t succeed in getting fully funded. The game is not over, although the Friday deadline approaches.
Von Imhof, who represents south Anchorage, said that her father Ed Rasmuson is home dying from cancer and “I’m here listening to the biggest crock of crap I’ve ever heard. I’m so sick of it. Get a grip, people! Vote for this budget!” she yelled.
“The greed and the entitlement is astounding to me,” von Imhof said to the Senate, describing the people of Alaska who support the statutory formula for the Permanent Fund dividend of over $3,000, or those who support the 50-50 dividend, of over $2,300.
On the first round of voting, the operating budget failed by one vote, cast by Sen. Lyman Hoffman, who then asked for reconsideration. The Senate then took a break.
On reconsideration, the budget passed the Senate, along with the effective date, which would keep government running after July 1.
But the Senate did not have enough votes to access the Constitutional Budget Reserve fund to pay for some programs, some capital budget items, and some of the Permanent Fund dividend. That vote was 12-5, with Sens. Donny Olson, Mike Shower, and Bill Wielechowski excused.
That leaves a $525 Permanent Fund dividend and a lot of programs and capital projects in the Mat-Su Valley crossed off the list. The vote for the $525 dividend was largely a protest vote against the strong-arm tactics of the conference committee.
It was important that the effective date clause was passed by the Senate. But it still is not enough: Without an effective date clause from the House, the budget doesn’t go into effect until 90 days after the governor signs it, which could lead to a government shutdown.
However, in the past, some attorneys general have said that if the governor “intends to sign” the budget, the effective date clause doesn’t have to stop the government from continuing to function. It’s a gray area, but the Constitution makes it clear that the effective date clause on a bill is 90 days unless it is changed purposefully with a vote. It could be subject to litigation.
It’s unknown if Gov. Mike Dunleavy will sign the budget or veto it in whole, or in part. The new fiscal year begins July 1, and pink slips could go out after Thursday.
The House hasn’t gaveled out yet, so the members could go back and rescind their vote, and pass an effective date clause in line with the Senate. It’s doubtful they have the votes to change the outcome, however, as Rep. Sara Rasmussen left town on Tuesday and Rep. Neal Foster, co-chair of House Finance and co-chair of the conference committee, has also left, which leaves a big mess for Gov. Mike Dunleavy.