Rep. Lance Pruitt speaks during a House Minority press conference about the House of Representatives operating budget proposal on Thursday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Lance Pruitt speaks during a House Minority press conference about the House of Representatives operating budget proposal on Thursday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Capitol Live: Minority members criticize budget with ‘no plan’

Live updates from inside the Capitol.

4:36 p.m.

In his press conference a couple days ago, Dunleavy acted a little confused when talking about the red pens people are sending him or giving to him on his roadshow.

“We’re getting a lot of red pens, which is…interesting,” he said at the time.

The pens are meant to encourage Dunleavy to use his veto power on the Legislature’s budget to preserve PFDs and cut state spending.

Well, he seems to be getting into the spirit of it. First of all, he had a red pen in his front jacket pocket during that press conference. Secondly, just a moment ago, he tweeted this:

— Alex McCarthy

4:33 p.m.

A few notes about the House’s budget proposal, courtesy of a press release from the House Majority:

• $4.3 billion of unrestricted general fund spending was approved for Fiscal Year 2020, meaning there is a $200 million reduction compared to what will be spent in this fiscal year.

• $72.9 million was cut from the Department of Health and Social Services, primarily to Medicaid.

• $49 million was cut from the School Bond Debt Reimbursement Program, meaning that local governments will need to contribute more to build and repair schools, but the program itself will be preserved and funded at a sustainable level.

• $14.5 million was cut from the Department of Transportation, with the largest single line-item reduction being a $10 million cut to the Alaska Marine Highway System. This encourages efficiencies but rejects the governor’s plan to end ferry service on October 1.

• $13 million was cut from the Department of Corrections, with an effort to limit the ability of DOC to send prisoners out-of-state and to encourage in-state services like electronic monitoring and halfway houses.

• $10 million was cut from the University of Alaska, encouraging the Board of Regents to find efficiencies but rejecting the governor’s plan to cut $134 million from UA, which would threaten doubling of tuition or closure of entire campuses.

• The budget protects K-12 education, with the base student allocation and per pupil transportation fully funded and forward funding for Fiscal Year 2021. Head Start, Early Childhood Education grants, and Best Beginnings are also fully funded, as is critical public broadcasting infrastructure.

— Alex McCarthy

3:06 p.m.

Pruitt’s spitting fire here to close the press conference. He says the House shouldn’t have pushed back talking about the PFD.

“We shouldn’t wait until the very end of the process to have that conversation,” Pruitt says. “Instead, we should start talking about that now.”

Then he takes aim and fires.

“This budget had no plan,” he says. “It was more designed to keep a caucus together than actually govern.”

— Alex McCarthy

3:04 p.m.

Rep. Delena Johnson says that one of the amendments that was skipped was hers, which was to make the PFD follow the statutory formula. She says that having an Alaska budget without addressing the PFD is a “glaring omission.”

— Alex McCarthy

2:55 p.m.

Rep. Laddie Shaw says “all voices should be heard,” and that “my district did not have representation today.” He says his “voice was stifled.”

— Alex McCarthy

2:54 p.m.

Rep. Cathy Tilton calls this “a disappointing day,” that served as a “step backwards” in reducing state spending.

— Alex McCarthy

2:49 p.m.

Four representatives from the House Minority are holding a press conference to talk about the budget.

“I think we have a few things that are unsettled,” Rep. Lance Pruitt says.

He says multiple people in both the Minority and Majority were cut off from making amendments.

— Alex McCarthy

1:37 p.m.

Meanwhile, the House passed its budget proposal by a 24-14 vote along caucus lines. That’s a little earlier than most people expected, I think. We’ll have more on that later.

— Alex McCarthy

1:35 p.m.

A rare bit of laughter here in the Senate Finance room. Juneau resident Lin Davis goes into extended metaphor, referring to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget as a bake sale. Of course, she starts with a Baked Alaska. She talkes about ferry fritters, VPSO crisps, etc. She pleads with the senators to not buy any of it.

Sen. Peter Micciche chimes in, asking Co-Chair Bert Stedman, “Can we break for lunch?”

Stedman, who runs these meetings with an iron fist, sternly replies that everyone has already eaten and they need to keep moving.

“It was a joke,” Micciche says.

The room breaks into laughter, including Stedman, who finally gets the joke.

“Have to have a little entertainment in the room so we don’t get ulcers,” Stedman says.

— Alex McCarthy

1:25 p.m.

Campbell and Weldon both requested funding for another prosecutor for the District Attorney’s Office here in town.

— Alex McCarthy

1:23 p.m.

Weldon and Watt get up to the microphone. Weldon does all the talking, asking legislators not to shift too many costs down on municipalities. She specifically talks about cuts to Medicaid making it much tougher for the city-owned Bartlett Regional Hospital to operate.

She says that education cuts are short-sighted, saying education is an “investment in our future, not a discretionary cost.”

As she speaks, Juneau Police Department Chief Ed Mercer walks in. He’s up next.

— Alex McCarthy

1:20 p.m.

We’ve been unable to follow the goings-on on the House floor due to local coverage today, but now we’re at the Senate Finance Committee, which is taking public testimony from Juneau residents. Mayor Beth Weldon and City Manager Rorie Watt are sitting in the front row. People have advocated for K-12 education funding, university funding and funding for homeless programming in the past few minutes.

— Alex McCarthy

10:15 a.m.

Members of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration sent letters today to House and Senate leadership expressing their concerns with the Legislature looking into forward funding (committing money for the future) education. Attorney General designee Kevin Clarkson goes as far as to say this is unconstitutional.

This violates the state’s constitution, he says, by committing a future legislature to spend future revenues.

Read his letter below.

— Alex McCarthy

Kevin Clarkson, Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s choice for Attorney General, answers questions in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Kevin Clarkson, Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s choice for Attorney General, answers questions in front of the House Judiciary Committee on Monday, Feb. 25, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

8:45 a.m.

We ended yesterday’s Capitol Live a little abruptly as a result of print deadlines and local breaking news. Last night, according to multiple reports, the House voted to roll back half of the cuts the Finance Committee made to the school construction bond debt reimbursement program. The House also voted to restore the state’s dairy inspector position, according to reports.

The bond debt vote in particular is newsworthy, as it will save municipalities at least some of the money they claimed they would lose if the full program were cut. More on that here.

These decisions, of course, are not final. There’s still a great deal of tinkering to do with the budget and Gov. Mike Dunleavy is prepared to use his veto power/red pen.

Today, we’re expecting more House talks on the floor. They’re likely to examine the Permanent Fund Dividend at some point, according to what lawmakers told us yesterday.

Read more about how the PFD is hanging over the House’s head on the floor.

— Alex McCarthy

Mayor Beth Weldon, left, and City Manager Rorie Watt testify on the operating budget in front of the Senate Finance Committee at the Capitol on Thursday, April 11, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Mayor Beth Weldon, left, and City Manager Rorie Watt testify on the operating budget in front of the Senate Finance Committee at the Capitol on Thursday, April 11, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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