Chenault Extends Record As House Speaker

Nikiski Republican Mike Chenault will serve his fourth term as House Speaker in the Alaska State Legislature. That will make him the longest serving speaker in legislative history.

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At a press conference on Friday, Chenault stressed that advancing the development of a gasline is a major goal for the Republican majority in the House. He also said he would be willing to work with unaffiliated candidate Bill Walker, should Walker’s lead in the governor’s race hold.

“No one wants to be adversarial to start with,” said Chenault. “I think that what we will do is wait until it’s determined who are next governor is going to be, and then we will have those conversations about what directions the state should go.”

Chenault and Walker have in the past disagreed on where a gasline should end, what stake the state should have in it, and if the state should pursue the development of a small-diameter bullet line as backup plan should a deal to build a bigger line fall apart.

Chenault also said the state of the budget will be driving a lot of the Legislature’s work this spring. With the price of oil down substantially, a major revenue shortfall is expected.

Chenault said a draw from savings is likely, and that the majority could have to win over some support from the small Democratic minority to get the votes necessary to tap the constitutional budget reserve.

“If that happens to be the case and we end up in a position because of the price of a barrel of oil or the revenue stream, and we’ve got to go to the [constitutional budget reserve], then we’ll negotiate with the minority over what it’s going to take to be able to fund Alaska’s budget,” said Chenault.

The Democratic minorities in the House and Senate have also selected their leaders. Anchorage Democrat Berta Gardner will lead the Senate minority.

“We are happy to work with anybody on any issue whether they’re in our caucus or not in our caucus,” said Gardner in an interview. She added that she expects her caucus to have more access to the executive branch should Walker win election.

Anchorage Democrat Chris Tuck will again lead the House minority caucus.