Senate passes supplemental budget, House goes into the evening

Senate passes supplemental budget, House goes into the evening

Senate add funding to combat COVID-19, but needs three-quarter vote to pass

The Senate passed a version of the supplemental budget Wednesday, but by 6 p.m. the House had yet to take action on the bill.

This year’s supplemental budget, meant to cover extra costs incurred by the state in between legislative sessions, totaled $612 million combined state and federal funds.

In addition to the paying monies already spent by the state, the supplemental budget passed by the Senate included $33.5 million meant to address the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus.

When the House passed the first version of the supplemental budget, House Finance Committee Co-Chair Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, said not much had been added to the original version introduced by Gov. Mike Dunleavy in February.

That’s because most of the budget presented to the Legislature by the governor was taken up by payments to Medicaid services and firefighting efforts to combat the summer’s wildfires. Last year the Legislature appropriated $250 million in what it calls “headroom” or extra funds meant for the supplemental budget.

When the House passed their first version of the budget in late February, the amount of state funds to be used was $265 million, $15 million over the available headroom.

But the Senate’s version called from $360 million in unrestricted general funds. Appropriating the extra funds requires the state to draw from the Constitutional Budget Reserve, which requires a 3/4 votes of both bodies.

The Senate passed the budget unanimously Wednesday, with four members excused from the body. Sens. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla; Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River; Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer; and Mia Costello, R-Anchorage were not present for the vote.

Senate Finance Committee Co-Chair Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, apologized to the body for introducing such a large supplemental budget.

“I don’t have a choice,” Stedman said.

In the House, in order to draw the extra funds from the CBR, the bill would need 30 votes to pass. If the House changes the content of the bill, it must return to the Senate for approval.

Members of the House Republican Minority had expressed displeasure with the size of scope of the budget.

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

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