Alaska Legislature has nothing to show for two weeks after budget

The Alaska Capitol Building in Juneau on June 6, 2017. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

The Legislature’s special session hasn’t ended, two weeks since most state lawmakers left Juneau after passing the operating budget.

Listen now

While senators plan to return July 10, it’s not clear whether the Senate and House will reach any agreements before the session ends July 15.

Many lawmakers wanted to get out of Juneau after they voted to pass the budget.

Gov. Bill Walker asked them to consider a bill changing oil and gas taxes shortly after the budget vote, but they still decided to leave.

There have been no public meetings on the legislation, House Bill 111.

Anchorage Democratic Rep. Chris Tuck said the House didn’t formally adjourn because majority-caucus members still wanted to make changes to oil and gas taxes.

“We weren’t going to pull the rug out of underneath the governor adding to the call House Bill 111,” Tuck said. “It’s something we’re very passionate about.”

Without any public progress on the bill, lawmakers have just met in technical sessions, which prevent the special session from adjourning. But there are too few lawmakers present to take any official action.

The oil and gas tax bill is the only item on the agenda.

While the Senate majority wants to pass a version of the bill that ends a type of oil and gas tax credit, House members said they want a broader compromise.

Anchorage Democratic Rep. Geran Tarr said the Senate proposal to end oil and gas tax credits that can be cashed in retroactive to July 1 isn’t realistic.

“That’s not a doable proposal,” Tarr said. “It would be very difficult, if not impossible, to implement a mid-year tax change like that. I’m not sure if it was just a political gimmick, or if it was really a serious proposal.”

Anchorage Republican Sen. Cathy Giessel responded to the House comments by saying that it is realistic to end tax credits midyear. She also said she’s optimistic the Senate and House will reach a compromise.

The Legislature also hasn’t agreed on a capital budget.

The state could lose out on federal money for roads if it doesn’t pass a capital budget by the end of September.

It’s not clear when lawmakers plan to take up the capital budget again, or whether Walker will add it to this special session or to a third special session later this year.

Lawmakers also haven’t passed a plan to balance the state’s budget in the long term.

Instead, the Legislature voted to spend $2.5 billion from the Constitutional Budget Reserve. That reserve doesn’t have enough money to cover a similar draw next year.