The Alaska State Capitol in April 2018. (Juneau Empire File)

The Alaska State Capitol in April 2018. (Juneau Empire File)

Capitol Live: House GOP tags Pruitt as minority leader

Live updates from inside the Capitol.

5 p.m.

Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, will serve as the House Minority Leader, according to a House Republicans press release.

Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, will serve as Republican Finance Leader, and Rep. DeLena Johnson, R-Palmer, will be Minority Whip.

“Representative [Dave] Talerico (R-Healy) has done a masterful job executing a strategy to get our caucus to this point,” Pruitt said in a statement from the release. “The Governor has presented a budget to try and align spending with revenues, and we’ll be working closely with our colleagues to put Alaska on a sustainable path forward.”

The House Majority, led by Speaker Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham, has not made any official announcements regarding leadership. The House voted Edgmon into the role this morning. A text from the House Coalition press secretary said to “anticipate details to be forthcoming tomorrow” regarding House Majority leadership.

— Kevin Baird

1:45 p.m.

Just spoke with Mouhcine Guettabi, an associate professor of economics at the University of Alaska Anchorage Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), about the budget. Guettabi is one of the authors of a 2016 study about the short-term economic impacts of cutting the Alaska state budget.

The study (linked here) found that for every $100 million that the state cuts in its budget, the statewide economy loses 1,000 jobs. Guettabi estimated that if the state cuts $1.6 billion, the state might lose between 13,000 and 20,000 jobs.

“I think that it’s fairly clear that if we are to go through the proposed cuts, this lengthens the recession and creates quite a bit of uncertainty for the next six months,” Guettabi said. “From a pure economic standpoint, we’re basically going to have an economy that’s frozen because people are not going to be spending if you don’t know if you’re going to have a job in six months or eight months and businesses probably won’t be hiring.”

— Alex McCarthy

12:25 p.m.

Juneau School District Board President Brian Holst is attending the Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon. During his roundtable introduction, he said that JSD officials were looking at the impacts of the proposed budget cuts on Juneau’s schools.

“We think it will be about 27 percent of our total budget,” he says.

— Mollie Barnes

12:21 p.m.

After that confrontational Senate Finance meeting earlier, Sen. Bill Wielechowski is having a Facebook Live session on his Facebook account at 4 p.m. That’s according to a tweet of his.

— Alex McCarthy

12:20 p.m.

Reporter Alex McCarthy provides an update on the latest news out of the Capitol:

11:59 a.m.

A Kodiak chiropractor whom Gov. Mike Dunleavy had appointed to join the Alaska Workers’ Compensation Board in March has been charged with multiple felony assualt charges, and a weapons misconduct charge, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reports.

11:15 a.m.

Partisan politics be damned. The Alaska House organized this morning after two more Republicans voted with the House Coalition to elect Rep. Bryce Edgmon of Dilllingham as Speaker of the House.

“To hell with politics. I’m going to do what is right for Alaska,” Rep. Jennifer Johnston, an Anchorage Republican, said moments before casting her vote for Edgmon.

Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, also voted in favor of Edgmon. The tally was 21 ‘Yeas’ and 18 ‘Nays.’ Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, was absent.

After going into recess, Edgmon said he expects Reps. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole; Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks; and Knopp to caucus with the House Coalition. That would place the House Coalition at a total of 24 members. Edgmon said that number may change before the day is through.

Now that the House has a speaker it can get down to business. Edgmon appointed Reps. Neal Foster, D-Nome, Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, Johnston and Thompson to the Committee on Committees. Committee assignments can now be made. Edgmon said a House Finance Committee meeting could be scheduled by the end of the day.

Earlier this week Edgmon changed from a Democrat to undeclared. He was also the first Alaska Native to be elected Speaker of the House when he served in that position during the 30th Legislative Session.

It took the House 31 days to organize in this 31st Legislative Session. That is a record that is likely to stay for a long time.

— Kevin Baird

10:35 a.m.

A vote of 21 ‘Yeas’ and 18 ‘Nays’ elects Rep. Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham as Speaker of the House. He recently changed from Democrat to undeclared.

Just prior to the vote, Rep. Jennifer Johnston, R-Anchorage says, “To hell with politics” and she is going to “do what is right for Alaska.” Johnston joined Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, in voting for Edgmon.

— Kevin Baird

The board in the House of Representative chambers shows how the representatives voted for Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, for Speaker of the House. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The board in the House of Representative chambers shows how the representatives voted for Rep. Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, for Speaker of the House. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

10:32

Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage, says he will vote for Rep. Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham to be Speaker of the House.

— Kevin Baird

10:22 a.m.

Reps. Dave Talerico, R-Healy, and Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham have been nominated Speaker of the House. Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported Edgmon has changed from Democrat to undeclared.

— Kevin Baird

10:10 a.m.

Wielechowski keeps pushing.

He asks repeatedly whether OMB has done “any sort of analysis at all” in terms of the budget’s impact on communities, businesses and Alaskans. Arduin remains mum on that, referring everything to OMB’s economist Ed King.

“When he is here, the economist can present the analysis that he has done,” Arduin says.

— Alex McCarthy

Capitol Live: House GOP tags Pruitt as minority leader

10:06 a.m.

The House chambers are slowly filling up. It’s day 31 of the 31st Legislative session. The big question: Will the House organize today?

[House surprised with unexpected speaker nomination]

— Kevin Baird

9:57 a.m.

One of the main questions that keeps popping up today is about whether OMB has done studies about how these cuts will affect communities. Arduin, dodging the questions, has said a couple times that there’s an economist with the department, and that the economist can present to the committee at some point about the possible impact. She also says the department hasn’t done a study into how this budget will affect municipal taxes.

— Alex McCarthy

9:45 a.m.

Wielechowski continues to be assertive today. He asks Arduin about the estimate that the University of Alaska could lose up to 1,300 jobs if this budget comes to fruition. Arduin says that estimate doesn’t take everything into account. She says the private sector will experience a major boost as a result of increased Permanent Fund Dividends.

She says the reduction of more than 600 state jobs will be “more than offset” by the boost the private sector will get.

Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin, compared this approach to President Herbert Hoover after the stock market crash in 1929, in terms of leaning on the private industry as the country slid into the Great Depression.

— Alex McCarthy

9:25 a.m.

Senators have been fairly aggressive in their questions for Arduin so far. They’re taking issue with some of Arduin’s claims and are particularly critical of the fact that she hasn’t been in the state very long and hasn’t sat in on discussions in recent years. Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, points out that Arduin has only been here for about eight weeks (I think it’s a little longer than that. Arduin said in a recent interview with the Empire that she got here in November).

Co-Chair Sen. Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage, says that not using the Earnings Reserve to help with the budget goes against what the state’s founding fathers (including her grandfather) intended.

“The Permanent Fund is set up to be the rainy day fund to offset the boom-and-bust market, which is what we’re in with oil revenue,” von Imhof says.

— Alex McCarthy

9:07 am.

Stedman’s giving a short introduction to today’s meeting. This is the first of a few Senate Finance Committee meetings breaking down the budget, he says. He also says he hopes to get a budget to the governor in early May after it goes through the Legislature.

“This is the beginning of a very lengthy process,” Stedman says.

— Alex McCarthy

Co-Chair Sen. Bert Stedman, listens to Donna Arduin, Director of the Office of Budget and Management, and Lacey Sanders, Budget Director for OMB, as they present Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s state budget in front of the Senate Finance Committee at the Capitol on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Co-Chair Sen. Bert Stedman, listens to Donna Arduin, Director of the Office of Budget and Management, and Lacey Sanders, Budget Director for OMB, as they present Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s state budget in front of the Senate Finance Committee at the Capitol on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

8:55 a.m.

Now that legislators have had time to examine the budget, today should be interesting. The action begins with Office of Management and Budget Director Donna Arduin presenting to the Senate Finance Committee in a few minutes.

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, is the co-chair of the committee. He just walked over to a couple guys sitting in the gallery and asked if they brought their popcorn. This could be good.

Our coverage from yesterday’s budget reveal:

Governor proposes cutting almost half of university’s total budget

Governor proposes cutting ferry funding at the end of the summer

Proposed Medicaid, health care cuts spark outrage

— Alex McCarthy

Speaker Pro Tempore Neal Foster, D-Nome, right, shakes hands with newly elected Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, in the House on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Speaker Pro Tempore Neal Foster, D-Nome, right, shakes hands with newly elected Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, in the House on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Donna Arduin, right, director of the Office of Budget and Management, speaks to the Senate Finance Committee at the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Donna Arduin, right, director of the Office of Budget and Management, speaks to the Senate Finance Committee at the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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