Donna Arduin, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, right, watches as Neil Steininger, administrative services director for OMB, explains how the office performs “sweeps” of unspent money in various government accounts during a Senate Finance meeting at the Capitol on Thursday, July 18, 2019.(Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Donna Arduin, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, right, watches as Neil Steininger, administrative services director for OMB, explains how the office performs “sweeps” of unspent money in various government accounts during a Senate Finance meeting at the Capitol on Thursday, July 18, 2019.(Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Budget wonks try to explain ‘the sweep’

Senate Finance Committee spends afternoon slogging through legal and technical details

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, had a question for Office of Management and Budget Administrative Services Director Neil Steininger.

“What does that mean in English?” he asked.

Steininger and his colleague OMB Budget Director Paloma Harbour sat before the Senate Finance Committee Thursday afternoon in a packed room.

Legislators, staff, press and spectators filled the Senate Finance Room at the capitol to hear the extensive discussion of the legal and accounting mechanism which govern “the sweep.”

The sweep is the name of the constitutional mandated emptying of appropriations accounts at the end of each fiscal year on June 30. Under normal circumstances these funds would be returned to those accounts without much notice as part of the normal work of the legislature.

But this year has not been one of normal circumstances. Not only was the legislature not able to complete its work before the end of the legislative session, Gov. Mike Dunleavy has added a number of other programs to the list of sweepable accounts.

Sen. Sen. Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage, asks a question as members of the Office of Management and Budget explains how the office performs “sweeps” of unspent money in various government accounts during a Senate Finance meeting at the Capitol on Thursday, July 18, 2019.(Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Sen. Sen. Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage, asks a question as members of the Office of Management and Budget explains how the office performs “sweeps” of unspent money in various government accounts during a Senate Finance meeting at the Capitol on Thursday, July 18, 2019.(Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Stedman made it clear that there had been language for the reverse sweep in the legislature’s capital budget at the end of the normal session, but there hadn’t been the votes to pass it.

Steininger said at the beginning of the meeting that the sweep was normally, “an academic concern.” But without the reverse sweep, its impacts have been hard to determine because this situation is unprecedented.

The language used and the details covered was quite technical, and Stedman asked the various speakers at several points to explain what was just said in much more simple language.

Steininger had a a list of potential solutions, other than simply passing a reverse sweep, the legislature could take, but no action can be taken until the full legislature has been presented with more complete information.


• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.


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