Funding the capital budget and reversing “the sweep” faced an uphill climb Sunday thanks to division and absences, and those factors are why critical aspects of Senate Bill 2002 ultimately failed.
Thirty votes were needed to approve portions of SB 2002 and just 33 lawmakers were present to vote on the bill the Senate previously passed unanimously Saturday.
The capital budget itself, which only required a simple majority passed 28-5. Portions of the bill that would fund the capital budget using the Constitutional Budget Reserve and reverse an accounting happening known as “the sweep” failed 25-8 to reach a 30-vote threshold. A re-vote is expected tomorrow morning.
Voting against the bill were Reps. David Eastman, R-Wasilla; Sharon Jackson, R-Eagle River; DeLena Johnson, R-Palmer; Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage; Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, R-Wasilla; Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla; Sarah Vance, R-Homer; and Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole.
Almost every July for the past 28 years, “the sweep” has emptied state accounts into the Constitutional Budget Reserve. But, every year there has been a sweep, there has been a Legislature-approved reverse sweep to put the money back where it came from.
The Legislature failed to approve a reverse sweep when approving an operating budget, and some lawmakers are particularly concerned about failing to approve a reverse sweep before endowments for things such as college scholarships and rural power subsidization are wiped out.
“In summation, this is a very silly thing not to vote for,” said Rep. Jennifer Johnston, R-Anchorage, during her closing remarks. “This budget represents an opportunity for us to fund critical life, health and safety projects.”
Both the outcome of the vote and the vote itself were described by representatives on both sides of the bill as “disappointing.”
I am extremely disappointed on today's vote on the CBR and the reverse sweep. The House has one more chance to vote under reconsideration on Monday. Hope we get to 30 YES votes. #akleg #akgov https://t.co/GlzwQsvEew— Rep. Sara Hannan (@RepSaraHannan) July 22, 2019
Pruitt said he was disappointed in a lack of compromise in the bill as well as it drawing funding from the CBR instead of the general fund.
Wilson noted the bill’s similarities to a previous attempt at a capital budget that also failed to secure super majority support.
Wilson and Pruitt also took exception to a specific section of the budget — 17b — that would require future spending if the appropriations made in the bill fall short of expenditures.
They said they would not want to essentially be voting for legislation sight unseen and other House Minority members raised similar objections.
However, other representatives, including Johnston, Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage; and Rep. Chuck Kopp, R-Anchorage; maintained it was fairly standard language to ensure the budget was balanced.
“I’m very surprised people will advance an argument that on the face of it is insincere,” Kopp said after the floor session.
Kopp said it’s possible additional representatives may be present in Juneau for tomorrow’s revote, and he is optimistic there may be a different outcome tomorrow.
Excused absences Sunday were Reps. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski; Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake; Sara Rasmussen, R-Anchorage; George Rauscher, R-Sutton; Josh Revak, R-Anchorage; Laddie Shaw, R-Anchorage; and Dave Talerico, R-Healy.
Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, said the governor would have the ability to veto future appropriation bills and his vetoes would then require a super majority vote to override, so there are checks in place.
A handful of representatives were critical of the bill but still voted for it and the CBR draw.
Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, supported a couple of unsuccessful amendments that would attach a $3,000 Permanent Fund Dividend to the capital budget, but still voted for it.
Likewise, Rep. Kelly Merrick, R-Eagle River, who spoke against the bill during House Finance Committee consideration of the bill, ultimately voted in favor of it.
Merrick was among representatives who spoke to the importance of passing a capital budget for creating jobs for Alaskans as well as the risk on losing out on almost $1 billion in matching federal funds for highway and airport projects if the budget is not passed.
“This bill means good jobs for Alaskans, and I’m not willing to play politics when there is so much on the line,” Merrick said.
• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt