The Alaska House of Representatives obviously gets it. We’re hoping the Alaska Senate will, too.
The House on Monday voted 38-1 in support of a resolution to stop work on any bills not directly related to bridging the state’s nearly $4 billion budget gap. All lawmakers knew coming into the legislative session that addressing the budget and finding revenue solutions would be the top priority, but the House essentially put the state’s money (or lack thereof) where its mouth is. Until the House sends its version of the budget to the Senate for approval, there will be no work on other topics, with only a few exceptions.
We applaud the House for getting its priorities right. The budget should be priorities one, two and three.
This isn’t to say the other bills aren’t important, but without funding state government will not be able to afford anything beyond the most basic level of services. They can get to those bills, but should only do so after addressing the budget.
The state cannot afford to delay solving this issue any further without severe financial consequences next year. Even delaying until next session will be too late, and the state’s Capital Budget Reserve won’t have enough money left to make a large impact if it’s raided this year to make ends meet.
The resolution also was a strong sign of bipartisan cooperation, with only Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, voting against. But Josephson’s concerns were about the House suspending its five day’s notice of when bills can be heard and instead going with a 24-hour rule.
“This is very important to focusing our work,” said Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau. “I really appreciate being able to get all of us … to solve our budget issues.”
Speaking from the other side of the aisle, Rep. Sam Kito III, D-Juneau, agreed. “I’m cautiously optimistic that there is an effort to work together in good faith and that we will continue to work together with our colleagues … for a sustainable budget plan.”
The House’s resolution is a sign of optimism that both parties are willing to set aside everything else and focus on the most important issue to face Alaska in decades. It’s our hope now that this gesture of bipartisanship will lead to solutions before time runs out.