After weeks of an impasse, House Republicans have a new message for Democrats: Take our latest budget package, or we’ll go around you.
The proposal Republicans unveiled Wednesday addresses two key sticking points for Democrats. It restores education spending to Gov. Bill Walker’s proposed levels, but keeps a reduction of one-time funding that Democrats had hoped to counteract. Their proposal also maintains the cost-of-living increases guaranteed in state employee union contracts. It balances those add-ins by directing the governor to make a $30 million cut to agency operations.
While explaining the new bill, Republicans on the committee talked a lot about compromise, including Dan Saddler of Eagle River:
“I just want to make the observation that any budget is a compromise and that there are unlimited needs and desires in state government. We are in the unfortunate situation of having less money than we’d like to have and so you can’t have everything be a number one priority, it’s necessary to make compromises, accommodations and allocate.”
But Democrats, like Rep. David Guttenberg of Fairbanks, do not think that ‘compromise’ accurately describes the new bill.
“When we talk about compromise, usually we have two people talking or two parities talking face to face, talking about what the compromise is. I just want to make sure- from my caucus’s perspective that didn’t happen. One side decided what the compromise is and asking or telling the other side here’s what your compromise is.”
If Democrats do not support the legislation, the Republican majority has found a way to circumvent them. While they currently need a three-quarter vote to access the state’s rainy day account, they are able to reduce that threshold by shifting money around in the Permanent Fund so that it can’t be spent.
If the Legislature does not find a way to plug its multi-billion-dollar deficit through its savings, the state government could partially shut down on July 1.