Alaska House of Representatives members passed a budget Tuesday after an hours-long session on the floor, and the budget will now go to the Senate.
The budget included roughly $4.5 billion of state dollars, House Finance Committee Co-Chair Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, told the body, which was roughly the equivalent of the governor’s proposed budget in December.
“This budget does not fund sending prisoners out of state,” Foster said.
He highlighted some things it does fund, including criminal prosecutors, Village Public Safety Officers, public radio and the Alaska Marine Highway System.
However, the bill passed by the House did not include an allocation for a Permanent Fund Dividend, leading several representatives to call the bill incomplete.
“We decided we want the PFD to be an appropriation,” Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski said. “But we’ve left it out of the appropriating document.”
The bill passed 23-16 with Carpenter and other members of the House Republican minority caucus voting against the bill. Following the vote on the bill itself, was the vote to draw funds from the state’s Constitutional Budget Reserve. That vote requires two-thirds of the House to pass, but received the same 23-16 vote the bill did. That vote wasn’t necessary to send the bill to the Senate, but it will be once the budget comes back to the House for final passage.
The passage of the bill Tuesday was a fairly calm affair, with only minor disruption in numerous amendments from Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, some of which were ruled out-of-order after being deemed, dilatory, or intended to delay, by House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham.
After the vote House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, called the proceeds collegial.
“There’s concerted effort by both myself and the speaker,” Pruitt told reporters. “The goal is to get out of here and make good policy.”
But while relationships between lawmakers have so far been less fraught than last year, lawmakers speculated that as the second half of the session begins and as discussions surrounding the PFD take center stage tensions will get higher. Meeting with reporters following the session, Edgmon, Foster and Rep. Jennifer Johnston, R-Anchorage, said they expected things to be more difficult going forward.
“I would expect the second half of session to be more contentious than the first half,” Edgmon said.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.