Legislature still hasn’t officially sent budget to governor

When the legislature passed the budget last week, state workers thought they were in the clear. No need for pink slips. If they hadn’t passed a budget, the state would have been required to send layoff notices to all of its employees–just like they did last year.

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State workers remain in limbo until Gov. Bill Walker signs the budget. (Photo by Lisa Phu, KTOO - Juneau)
State workers remain in limbo until Gov. Bill Walker signs the budget. (Photo by Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau)

There’s only one problem – the legislature hasn’t officially sent the budget to Gov. Bill Walker. And until that happens, state workers are still in limbo.

As executive director of the largest state workers union in Alaska — American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 52 — Jim Duncan is concerned that the legislature hasn’t sent the budget bill to Walker. And until that happens, Walker can’t sign it and workers can’t be 100% sure they’ll have jobs come July 1.

“I surely hope they’re not holding it to play a game with the governor, to put pressure on him,” Duncan said.

Duncan said the longer the legislature waits, the less time Walker will have to decide whether to sign the measure.

“The delay in transmitting the budget does cause some concern,” Duncan said. “And it could be part of the administrative process – it’s just taking time on the legislative branch. Or it could be a strategy on the part of the legislature to wait until the final moment – the final days of June.”

It’s a little-known quirk of state law that bills don’t automatically go to the governor to be signed.  Either the Senate president or the speaker of the House decides when it will land on the governor’s desk.

In the case of the budget, it’s up to House Speaker and Nikiski Republican Mike Chenault. He said there’s no particular reason why the bill hasn’t been transmitted. But he said state workers shouldn’t be worried.

“We haven’t got around to it yet,” Chenault said. “There’s no foul play expected. There’s nothing sinister going on. It’s just part of the legislative process. It just hasn’t been a big priority. We’ve been working on oil tax legislation and other things. And, you know, the employees won’t get laid off tomorrow if the budget doesn’t get sent to the governor tomorrow, so there’s no concerns there.”

A spokesperson for Walker reiterated that the legislature passed a fully funded budget and pink slips won’t go out to state workers, but didn’t directly address the delay.

Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.

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