COMMENTARY / ANDREW JENSEN
ALASKA JOURNAL OF COMMERCE
Gov. Bill Walker appears to have not learned his lesson when calling a special session.
After the Legislature went all 121 days it was allowed this year without producing a budget or a way to pay for it, Walker called a special session with a loaded agenda that proved a recipe for disaster as the divided House and Senate exerted their respective leverage over the various pieces and it ended after 30 days at the same stalemate.
Now with a government shutdown looming, Walker called another special session with one agenda item: the operating budget. With no leverage over each other and an understanding of the consequences of not passing a budget by June 30, the House and Senate were finally able to agree on something and accomplished their one constitutionally-mandated task.
After the operating budget was agreed upon June 22, Walker added a second item to the session: ending the cashable credit program for North Slope explorers and small producers.
Again, with one item to consider and with both sides understanding the need to end a program with a $1 billion liability to the state budget, the House and Senate eventually agreed to kill the program retroactively to the start of the current fiscal year on July 1.
By this point the per diem counters were running and the public anger was growing over legislators collecting thousands of dollars per day while only a handful were actually involved in the heavy lifting of negotiation.
Acknowledging that anger, Walker declared he would not call a third special session until a capital budget bill was ready to pass. Like the limited call of the second session, with one thing to work on the House and Senate leaders finalized a deal and were able to come to order for a single day and pass it.
With the fourth special session of the year now set to begin Oct. 23, Walker has set himself up for another failure.