House Passes Operating Budget, As Special Session Moves Toward End

The Alaska House of Representatives has passed an operating budget, signaling the end of a stalemate over the state’s multi-billion-dollar budget deficit.

The $5 billion budget includes changes agreed to by a conference committee on Wednesday. It funds a contractual cost-of-living increase for public employees, but offsets that directing the governor to make a $30 million reduction to agency operations. The compromise also restored some cuts that had been made to education and the ferry system.

The vote on the bill was 32 to 7, with half of the Democratic Minority voting against it, because it did not reduce the payment of oil tax credits or advance some of their other priorities like Medicaid expansion. Rep. Lora Reinbold, a conservative Eagle River Republican who was kicked out of the majority caucus earlier this year, also voted against it, but because she thought it spent too much.

However, Democrats were unanimous in their support for paying for the operating budget by making a withdrawal from the Constitutional Budget Reserve. The vote was 38 to 1, well above the three-quarter threshold to access the rainy day fund. Reinbold was the lone no vote.

The Senate is scheduled to take up the budget bill, along with a sexual abuse prevention bill known as Erin’s Law later today. If the two bodies successfully end their special session on Thursday, state government will no longer be at risk of shutting down on July 1.

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