Alaska House comes up one vote short on capital budget funding

  • Alaska House House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, left, speaks with Minority Leader Lance Pruitt and Majority Leader Steve Thompson, right, on the House floor session in Juneau, Alaska Monday, July 22, 2019. The Alaska House has failed by one vote to approve funding for a state infrastructure package. Majority lawmakers needed support from minority Republicans to reach the 30-vote threshold required to access the constitutional budget reserve fund, which the capital budget would use. A similar vote Sunday, July 21, failed by five votes. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

The Alaska House failed by one vote Monday to win sufficient support to use reserve funds to help pay for a state infrastructure budget.

The vote came on reconsideration, after a similar vote failed Sunday. Lawmakers still could try to revive the measure for another vote later. The measure previously passed the Senate.

"We are not giving up hope," House Speaker Bryce Edgmon said in a statement. "We thank everyone who voted for the capital budget and for the growing commitment to find compromise on this issue and the many other challenges ahead."

The capital budget would use constitutional budget reserve funds. In the House, that requires at least 30 votes and means the 23-member bipartisan majority needs buy-in from Republicans who are in the minority or not affiliated with a caucus.

Supporters picked up four votes compared with Sunday's tally, with three of the seven minority Republicans who were absent Sunday back and voting in favor of the reserve fund provisions. House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, a "no" Sunday, changed to "yes."

Anchorage Rep. Sara Rasmussen, one of the returning Republicans, said she would not have chosen using reserve funds to help pay for the budget. She saw supporting the measure as the best path forward, however.

"May this be the olive branch to begin truly working together as Alaskans, for Alaskans," she said in a floor speech.

The capital budget is one of the agenda items for the current special session, which began July 8 and was marred early on by a dispute over the proper meeting location. Lawmakers also have yet to settle on an amount to pay residents this year from the state's oil-wealth fund, the Alaska Permanent Fund. Some legislators hope to reverse cuts Gov. Mike Dunleavy made to the state operating budget.

Language in the capital budget also seeks to prevent money in various accounts, for things such as student scholarships and rural electric costs, from going into the budget reserve to help repay money that has been taken from it.

Some minority Republicans argued Monday that provisions in the capital budget allowing for additional draws from the reserve fund were too broad and complicated.

House Finance Committee co-chair Rep. Jennifer Johnston said the provisions allow up to $250 million to be drawn from the reserve for unforeseen costs and what she called standard language to ensure the budget is balanced if revenues do not meet projections.

07/22/2019 - 2:51pm