Saturday, May 27, 2023
HomePoliticsTense day in Legislature ends with House concurring with Senate budget

Tense day in Legislature ends with House concurring with Senate budget

It was a long and contentious day in the halls of the Capitol. Most of the day saw legislators in and out of caucus meetings, and Senate leaders in and out of House Speaker Cathy Tilton’s office. Deals appeared to be being made, fast and furious, and the problem with having a nonbinding majority caucus was more evident than ever.

The House convened in the early evening to vote on the Operating Budget, which had been delivered to the body just 24 hours earlier.

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It appears that some wrangling involving capital project money being moved around had been enough to secure the some of the votes needed to concur with the Senate’s amended budget, which has a $1,300 Permanent Fund dividend, less than half of what the House had proposed in its own budget. The total added to the capital budget by the Senate for these votes was about $34 million.

It’s a rare occurrence for the House to simply concur with a Senate budget; almost always the differences are worked out in conference committee.

By a vote of 26-14 the operating budget passed rather quickly Thursday evening, including yes votes of the minority. But 13 majority members, including Speaker Tilton and Majority Leader Dan Saddler, voted no.

The rationale for concurring or not concurring was different or everyone. Rep. Neal Foster voting against concurrence, while Bryce Edgmon voted for it, and those two almost always vote in lockstep. The special session ended in one day, with a victory for the Senate budget, which does not dip into savings to pay a Permanent Fund dividend.

Several legislators were making a dash for the Juneau airport, trying to get on an 8:40 pm flight to Anchorage.

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Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
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.


    • In Alaska the non-working class pays more based on income level. Percentage wise the taking of the PFD is the most regressive and damaging tax (revenue source) that our government uses to fund its bloated budgets.

      • The House knew the Senate wouldn’t budge on the PFD 75-25 split so as to not get in a back and forth for days on end, relying on the Governors potential veto was the best way to end the special session.
        Question is, will the governor use the veto pen that he was reluctant to use in the past and will that boost the dollar amount of the PFD’s?

        • No, the only option the governor has with regard to the PFD is to veto it down to a smaller amount or eliminate it completely. In the past, he has done both.

          • You are correct, but he can also line item out a lot of spending in other areas and force the legislative bodies to reconsider PFD amount in another special session.

      • Have to fund the fishermen again this year! Federal handouts right from the liberals. Don’t work! Don’t change professions! Keep taking those government handouts be beholden to the taxpayers alaska.

  1. Twenty-six legislators were willing to reward the senate for taking the operating budget and the capital budget and sit on them for the duration of this year’s legislative session. They waited until moments before voting to adjourn until January 2024 before passing either budget. In the end they smooshed both into a single bill, lit the fuse, threw it back to the house, and then ran for cover.

    And the punchline is: 26 legislators just ratified that strategy in full, which will make it all the more likely that the senate will do the exact same thing next year; that is, if the house doesn’t surrender to their demands first.

      • He voted no. Did you look at the tally? How did your district Representative vote? Mine also voted no.

        • Representative Eastman has an uncanny ability to cast votes that are completely meaningless in the biggest moments, except last year when his vote kept every Alaskan from getting a statutory PFD.

        • Joe, when will you radical leftists and pro-establishment quislings stop with your stupid and disingenuous complaints about the anonymity of posters here? Does the identity of the poster have any relevance to the arguments, facts or logic of their comments? No, it does not.
          Nor for that matter do any of us (except perhaps Suzanne) really know if you are actually “Joe Geldof” in real life or not — but again, it does not matter in any way whatsoever anyway.

          How about trying to make an actual logical or rational comment, instead of the typical radical leftist snark and ad hominem attacks?

          And before you (again disingenuously) retort that you are not in fact a radical leftist, well, all I can say in response is that if it looks like a radical leftist duck, and walks like a radical leftist duck, and (especially) quacks like a radical leftist duck …

          • Joe,
            Why is it that you chide others for making unhelpful comments or snarkily say things like “really thoughtful and insightful comment” all while making unhelpful, thoughtless, uninsightful comments yourself? A tad disingenuous, no?

            If you think putting a name behind your comments lends it more credence you must have never heard of the likes of John Adams, Samuel Clemens, Benjamin Franklin, François‐Marie Arouet, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, or James Madison…all of whom used one or many nom de plumes.

      • We locked the calculation of the PFD into state law to prevent legislators from arbitrarily choosing a different PFD amount each year. State law says that the dividend should be $3,450 this year (Note: this is the estimated amount as, according to state law, the amount isn’t finalized until September). I believe it is incumbent on legislators to follow the law. When the house voted to replace the governor’s request for a full dividend and replace it with a smaller amount in this year’s budget, I voted “no”. Unfortunately, I stood alone at the time. The amendment I put forth during the budget debate was to pay a full PFD. Some other legislators voted with me, but it was too little, too late. They had already previously voted to remove the full dividend from the budget, and (Juneau politics being what it is today) it is twice as hard to get a full dividend into the budget as it is to take it out. When other legislators wanted to pay off other obligations (and perceived obligations) in this year’s budget, my question was “why we would prioritize other things (such as purchasing oil and gas tax credits), which are legally optional, before following the law and distributing the dividend?”

        Special interests have been successful in prevailing upon legislators to fund their requests first at the expense of the dividend. That is not the way the law says it is supposed to work. The dividend is to be paid first. Voters elect us to act as their lobbyists. Rights now, instead of lobbying for the people, the vast majority of legislators lobby each other for their own benefit and the benefit of the special interests in Juneau. Those who have been co-opted by the special interests are part of the problem. Unsurprisingly, they accuse the few of us advocating for the voter of being the problem, and bemoan loudly how life would be easier for everyone in Juneau if we just disappeared. Despite all the rhetoric, that’s where the divide is.

    • Representative, is a gubernatorial veto, or line item veto, the only hope? And how many votes would it take to overturn such a veto? And thank you for your work.

      • The governor in Alaska has more control over the state budget than perhaps any other governor in any other state. If his request for a full dividend isn’t honored, he can unilaterally veto the whole budget, or he can surgically veto any portion of it that is of particular importance to the 43 legislators who diverted more than 62% of this year’s dividend to other state government programs and projects.

        The 43 legislators who voted to pass the budget without the full dividend are not enough to override the governor’s veto. In order to override the governor, they would actually need 45 legislators to show up and vote to overturn the governor. As the governor’s office pointed out to us his first year in office. If 16 legislators are out fishing, the governor’s veto is upheld. If 15 legislators vote “no” and 1 is out fishing, the governor’s veto is upheld (or any combination that results in less than 45 legislators showing up and voting to overturn the veto).

        The governor and 16 legislators (even counting legislators that are out sick or just unavailable) have absolute control to block anything from being placed in our state budget.

        If 16 legislators and the governor want to eliminate some of the pet projects that were used to buy (I mean “procure”) legislators’ votes for the budget, they can.

        If 16 legislators and the governor want to eliminate abortion funding from the budget, they can.

        If 16 legislators and the governor want to eliminate new funding for the university, they can. They unilaterally have the power to remove whatever was in the budget that convinced the other 43 legislators to vote for the budget, and insist that legislators leave the dividend in the budget as it came to them from the governor.

        That’s the math. The reality is that there are few legislators willing to take the heat from the university lobby, or the abortion lobby, or the pet projects lobby (e.g. the lobby for snowmachine trail grooming funds, and every other pet project that was prioritized higher than a full dividend in this year’s budget priorities).

        • Useful analysis.
          Taking heat does require showing up as part of the process. The Senate totally outmaneuvered the majority House members. Not sure the Governor was even around for the maneuvering. Isn’t he out on a bear hunt?

    • All of you should be fired. absolutely no representation and all you people think about is how to fund the BS that the government should not even be involved in. Our only hope is that the Governor sends it all back, and i’m pretty sure that won’t happen either. Thanks for nothing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Rep. Eastman, the House has no basis for a “holier than thou’ posture. They passed a budget that was not balanced, due to the fact that they could not get a vote to get the CBR funds that they wanted. They sent this unfunded budget to the Senate anyway with, I presume, the hope that they would solve the House’s problem. Well, the Senate did so. And then paid $34 million more for a few House votes.

    • Thank you for explaining things. I hope that the governor steps up. Also I heard there was some huge pay raising going on for ppl in government here in Alaska. Do they not see the hypocrisy, we are going to cut your pfd by 2/3 and our salary is increasing by 2/3 50k to 84k or is it a sick joke? It almost seems that they despise that they have to give the common folks anything. Keep up the good work.

  2. Sure hope none of the legislators were inconvenienced too much. Missing a flight could have been traumatic.

    Thanks for all your work Rep Sumner. I think you have done enough so I’ll be sure to vote for someone else next year.

  3. For the next 8 months we got some talking to do over tea and pasteries with our districts representation
    why alaska must reduce government spending for 2024 budget and respect the pfd’s purpose and intent.
    I’m thankful this senate have no mean-spirited senator who argued for a 500$ dividend last year to follow her wrong-thinking. A hundred don’t go far today.

  4. The red pen will be coming out on this budget and there will be another special session before all is said and done.

    • Keep in mind that under the Alaska Constitution it takes a three-quarters majority vote to override a veto of an appropriation. If the fourteen from the House and three disenfranchised Republicans in the Senate combine, that is enough votes to sustain an appropriations veto. That said, deals can be made to buy votes. We will see.

    • Dunleavy meet with the Senate & agreed to no veto’s the night before the concurring vote in the house so how do you surmize this statement … Dunleavy is one of the big spenders & really doesn’t give a damn about anyone’s PFD his gonads were cut 4 years ago!

    • Steve-O’s predictions have about the same likelihood as oil shooting up to $120 a barrel and staying there during 2023. Once again an opinion expressed by the fantastic Steve-O disconnected from reality.

  5. A budget that gives Democrats and RINOs everything they could ever hoped for, purchased with pork aimed at so-called “conservative Republicans,” passed only due to the support of the House Minority. The Uniparty Binding Caucus of the Senate was just too strong it seems.

  6. So, what were they promised?
    Elected children, got childish results.
    Did you expect something else?

    I’m frankly surprised we’re not facing an income tax.

  7. Of coarse they voted for it , they needed to cut the PFD to pay for their almost 67% raise they voted themselves. They are not dumb the people who voted for them are.

    Alaska legislators, Gov. Mike Dunleavy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom and the commissioners in charge of state agencies will see pay raises after the Legislature missed the final deadline for a bill needed to block the increases.

    Starting July 1, Alaska’s governor will be paid approximately $176,000 per year, the lieutenant governor about $140,000, and commissioners will receive about $168,000 per year.

    Legislators will be paid $84,000 per year, up from $50,400, starting next January.

    • Their pay is not even a drop in the bucket. The actual drivers are education and health. Namely, Medicaid and Medicare, and the public schools and university.

      If they all worked for FREE the state budget would be almost identical.

    • And they are getting paid with our PFD. The PFD belongs to every Alaskan not just the politicians. They are stealing from us.

  8. Several legislators were making a dash for the Juneau airport, trying to get on an 8:40 pm flight to Anchorage.

    The 20 told the 40 to go pound sand and take it or leave it, they took it, rolled over and voted to get out town quickly. Yep, their work is done and the 60 legislators even got a raise in pay to 84K for 122 days of “work” ($2,016,000 more every year til the next raise) without blinking an eye + geneous per diem this year while Alaskans get crumbs for a PFD.

    The full statutory dividend based on the rolling average of the 5 prior year’s earnings of the Permanent Fund (not the price of oil) would have been around $3,800 NOT $1,300. Will there be repercussions in the voting booth for these morons? Nope, people will be glad to get even $1,300 and vote the same sad sacks into office again…………….

    • > Will there be repercussions in the voting booth for these morons? Nope, people will be glad to get even $1,300 and vote the same sad sacks into office again…………….

      The people most hurt by it are the very same low-information voters sending these idiots to Juneau.

  9. The legislator do NOT work for the people anymore. If these idiots keep getting voted in, we can count on the state going into the toilet. The money goes into specific pockets, more money gets thrown away on useless projects, electric ferry, and the population gets screwed again. The people that vote for these idiots are ignorant.

    • The State is already in the toilet based on their past decisions and where it will take us. It may be time to start looking for greener pastures elsewhere. problem is the entire country is pretty much in the same boat and i wouldn’t even know where to start looking.

    • Robert, I’m sure you’ve known that for a long time. Instead of feigning surprise, why not run for some lucrative, public office yourself and work toward lining your own pockets? It seems that there is always enough to go around for whoever is in office!

  10. This is the government we deserve. We keep putting the same liars/losers back in office.

    At least half of the blame for this mess falls on us.

  11. The free lunch crowd is loud and proud this morning. Only in Alaska, where the more conservative you are the more free government cheese you want.

    • Exactly. The PFD is pure socialism which conservatives love to hate but they love money more and facts, hypocrisy and shame will not deter them.

      • Lucinda
        No the PFD is in the state constitution about the mineral rights and the Alaskan residence sharing. Socialism is where we’re headed as they are taking our PFD without consent it’s called breaking the law.

  12. Just as with the senate the house needs to be purged. Do not vote for incumbents unless you vet them first.

    Consider running against incumbents in the primary if nothing less then to shed some sunlight and make them say the thing out loud:

    “we support an ever expanding government and are beholden to the teachers union and government employee unions.”

    “we will tax you generously and unfairly and then steal what is rightfully ours to ensure we placate those who we give money to ensure their support and our reelection because of a distracted and uninvolved majority.”

    ” we will look down upon you as serfs who will comply, as we know better and have men with guns who will enforce our edicts if you do not.”

    This current political class is rancid. They are awful. They need to go en masse.

  13. It was good of the state senate to come up with a balanced budget with no deficit. The House’s budget proposal was a flippant insult to the senate and to the Alaskan people, because it contained a massive $800 million deficit. There is no justification to have a deficit, unless the price of oil had crashed through the floor and into the basement, like it did in 2014-2015.
    It is fine for the House to propose a very large PFD, but they must also do the hard work of cutting some state services and capital projects, to allow for everything to fit within a balanced budget. The House did not do that.

    • Randy,
      And the House did not consider a statutory, fully-funded PFD, which they are also obligated to do in further consideration of a budget proposal. You are hung-up on a balanced budget. However, the House does not need to consider, with the exception of a reasonable Education budget, …….a bloated state government with lots of fiscal waste to unions, unnecessary government jobs, and other expenses that are considered political payouts to their constituents. The PFD is every man, woman and child’s mandatory constituent payout. You haven’t really thought this through, Randy. But since you are a purist for no PFD payouts, just keep sending your checks back to the Revenue Department and they will gladly convert the funds to your favorite government worker who is union represented, or to a social program to rehabilitate chronic drug users.

      • Alvin Teague. I would think most people ought to be “hung up on a balanced budget”. It seems like wise financial management, whether for a family or a government.
        I certainly agree with you that we ought to get rid of bloat and waste in government. I’m in favor of getting rid of collective bargaining for state workers. I prefer “free market bargaining”.
        I am not “a purist for no PFD payouts”. In fact, I support paying out 2 PFDs per year: an original 1980 style PFD (which would favor long-term Alaska residents), as well as the current 1982 style PFD. I explain more at http://www.pfdbudget dot com.
        Though I have always mailed back my uncashed PFD paper checks to the state, since 2015, I would like once again, to pocket the PFDs, as I did from 1982 to 2014. I’m waiting for the badly depleted CBR to be replenished more, as it’s supposed to be by law.
        Also, it is not “mandatory” to pay out the 1982 formula amount for the PFD. The 1982 legislature cannot bind future legislatures, according to the Alaska Constitution (Article 9, section 7, Dedicated Funds). So, the PFD payout amount is subject to legislative appropriation. But I would like the PFD to be large, as long as it fits within a balanced budget.

        • So Randy,
          Statutory law isn’t binding authority? What do you look to as binding authority? Persuasive authority, as in Bill Walker’s unilateral decision to authorize partial payment in direct defiance of statue?
          Randy, your reasoning is a bit off. You have glued yourself to the notion that a balanced budget is the end-all resolution to the PFD. It is not. Money can be found in reserve accounts, which there are many in Alaska. Or, the $80 billion dollar PF itself can be tapped into to assist a statutory requirement. You have expressed interest in scaling back state spending in order to balance the revenue versus cost equation that you mention. Well …….propose. Where and what will you cut? Meanwhile, consider that the law as defined by statute to be the controlling authority. Everything else is either interpretation, violation, or political indoctrination. Choose your medicine.

          • Maverick. You are right. Statutory law is “binding authority”. However, the 2023 “law of the budget” “binds” to a greater extent, than the 1982 law on the PFD, because it is the most recent, and passed by the current sitting legislature. The 1982 legislature can’t stop the 2023 legislature from making their own law which modifies a previous law, on a one-year basis. Since the 2023 legislature did not specifically alter or delete the 1982 PFD law, the 1982 law will again go into full effect next year, unless the 2024 legislature passes, once again, a temporary 1-year modification in the budget, regarding a PFD appropriation.
            Governor Bill Walker had every right to veto half of the PFD in 2016, or any other legislative appropriation, according to the Alaska Constitution (Article II, Section 15). At the time, Alaska was in a dire situation with a $4 billion deficit due to the collapse in the price of oil.
            As far as tapping into the $80 billion Permanent Fund to “assist a statutory requirement”, we already, every year, tap into it to the maximum 5% amount that is allowed by statute. Of course, the legislature could pass new law (even a 1-year “temporary” law) to break the 5% barrier and grab more money, but that would be unsustainable and lead us down a bad path.
            I think we could save money, if we modified (or got rid of) the “Public Employment Relations Act” which was passed by the Alaska Legislature in 1972 (Alaska Statute 23.40.070 – 23.40.260). This law brought about collective bargaining for state employees and certain city employees.

    • Why do so many people have trouble understanding mandatory?

      The legislature is mandated to pay a full PFD statute and for a failed education system.

      Everything else is to one degree or another fluid.

  14. Our legislature doesn’t lack the courage to make real cuts to the state budget…they lack the desire to do so and even if they did slash and burn to bring state spending back down to just essential services the voters would just replace them with more amenable representatives at the next election. Voters want all their government benefits and our legislators are simply their willing accomplices. Dunleavy was our great hope and a convincing talker but he was neutered early on and will remain so until we vote him out in favor of another possibly well intentioned but naive and weak “leader.” Face it…there is no hope and the only time when real change occurs is after the economic disaster has happened and change is forced on us. Everything you see, all the tough talk and threats, are just a negotiation tactic…not to do the right thing for the state but to leverage their slice of the government pie out of the opposition to satisfy their particular special or self interests. That’s American government at the federal, state and local levels and we were always headed down a one-way track to economic disaster because people are the same everywhere. Better get ready.

    • Nothing will change until fiscal catastrophe.

      Addicts don’t try to get help until they hit bottom hard. Sadly we’ve still got a long way to fall.

  15. More and more I’m convinced the legislature has a dog trainer on staff in Juneau.

    His role? Teach Republicans to roll over and play dead.

  16. I think Gov Dunleavy wanted a budget passed that had a CBR draw so he could line item veto the BSA increase to “balance the budget” and get us all a higher PFD.

    Now that the House has concurred with the Senate’s version, there is no CBR draw so there is no way for him to “win” by reducing the budget.

    His only option to get us all a higher PFD would be to veto the entire budget and make the legislators return to Juneau and either override his veto or pass another budget more to his liking.

    As many have said on these message boards, I don’t think he has the spine to do that. Looks like were all getting ~$1300 and an increase to the BSA

    • Dunleavy should veto the entire budget and call them back and make them look like the turds that they are. Dunleavy ran and won BIG on his PFD position. Time to settle scores with his constituents first. Full funded PFD. Make the little Senate and House mice figure out the budget balance. They will all run for office again and try to explain to the voters why they didn’t follow the law, while Dunleavy is sitting on a beach, with Margarita, LHFAO at all the baffoons who dream of becoming governor like him.

      • Do you really think Dunleavy cares about that now that he has secured a second term as gov?

        He can’t run again and I don’t think he would succeed in a bid to run for national Senate or House. In my opinion, he is maxed out as a politician in Alaska and will take a plum job with an oil company or other donor when he is done as gov.

        In the end, we need to find about $800 million in cuts to pay the ~$2700 PFD the House wanted to pay us all.

        What should we cut? The BSA for schools? State Troopers? Marine Highway? Legislative & Executive salaries? Oil tax credits? The “Hilcorp” loophole for S corps?

        Or should we just draw that amount from our dwindling savings accounts? (that wouldn’t be a balanced budget)

        As much as I disagree with the spending priorities of the current and past legislatures, the current one just passed a balanced budget with no increase in actual taxes paid or cuts to current services, as well as no draws from State savings accounts.

        • -Privatize the railway and the marine highway
          -cut legislative salaries
          -take 5% from everyone.
          -take 35% minimum from the University system
          -cap the per diem at $175 a day.
          -no payment for special sessions
          -all special sessions held in Anchorage. No per diem for muni located legislators.
          -eliminate the ability off the legislature to ship nonessential materials to/from Juneau.

          The state budget is fatter and more bloated than a fat man at an all you can eat buffet.

          • All sound suggestions.

            It would be a good thing to hear politicians say, ” Be your own leader. We will get out of your way and reduce your tax burden.”

          • How about we start by cutting our bloated and generous welfare and Medicaid system? I’m certainly not suggesting we cut funding for those that legitimately can’t work and are under the age of 60. Also, whatever happened to the billions of Covid funds we were sitting on as a state? Is it still there or was it pilfered?

        • What the eff does a balanced budget mean when the legislators are hellbent on bloating the government more and paying off their favorite lobby whores for votes in the next election. A balanced budget means that once your bills are computed, you can decide how to raise revenues more, or tap into secret reserve accounts, because you can’t pay Peter until you Rob Paul again? Please explain, sir.

          • Worrying about a balanced budget right now is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

            Until the legislature is forced by the people or the economy to make serious reductions in state spending, a balanced budget is like dreaming about how to spend lottery winnings. Pointless.

  17. The PFD is in its last days. I imagine one or two more payouts before the Legislature and new Governor put it to bed for good.

  18. whore
    1. A prostitute.
    2. A person considered sexually promiscuous.
    3. A person considered as having compromised principles for personal gain.
    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  19. Alrighty then… let’s try this again and see if it gets by the censor this time. Why would a person write a story, two at least, about the state budget and never say what the amount of said budget is.

  20. I hope you aren’t growing weary. Remember you have several more premium legislative sessions to get through prior to gavelling out for first run reds at the Kenai. You will need a new photo for the next campaign season with the raise and all.

  21. It looks like the budget maneuvers were vintage Bert Stedman. As long as he is in the legislature, expect the same. He also has said the PFD determination is owned by the legislature after the Alaska Supreme Court upheld the legislature’s prior actions on the PFD. Remember that it was crickets when the governor put in bills to have the people decide on the taxes, and put the PFD in the State Constitution. No support but lots of cries about spinelessness. Unless Alaskans decide to get behind constitutional amendments to take the PFD and taxes out from under the legislature, we will only see the same process repeated every year. And thanks to Rep. Eastman for providing us a window into the House session this year.

  22. This is the time a real governor who has the power to veto BS items in the budget would be rubbing his hands and pouring over the wasteful spending. Unfortunately for Alaskans, little Mike will do neither and stamp it good to go.


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