Gov. Bill Walker has denied a request from legislative leadership to relocate the special session to a different venue.
For days, the executive and legislative branches have been stuck on education funding, Medicaid, and the fundamental responsibility of paying for government. Now, they are disagreeing on where they want to disagree.
“If they want to do Medicaid and Erin’s Law in Anchorage, that’s fine,” says Gov. Bill Walker. “But do not leave Juneau without a fully funded budget.”
In a letter to legislative leadership and then in a press conference with reporters, Gov. Bill Walker said he would not agree to give lawmakers a two-week recess followed by a change of venue.
Legislative leaders like Senate President Kevin Meyer have been pushing for a relocation since the special session gaveled in on Tuesday. The Anchorage Republican says there are logistical challenges to remaining in Juneau.
“The building’s under major construction. The staff is gone. Our files are gone. And we all have dirty clothes,” say Meyer.
Meyer says most of his suits were put on the ferry 10 days ago.
Given the stalemate on a number of policy questions, Meyer says his caucus would like a cooling period. He adds that requiring the Legislature to take up the budget again may backfire for the governor, who restored some money for education and public employee contracts on Tuesday.
“Okay, we’ll do the budget, but the results may not be any different,” says Meyer. “If anything, my guys — our caucus — we realize we have to get our spending in order first. So, you might actually see more reductions. We’re in no mood to add.”
But some Democrats, like House Minority Leader Chris Tuck, are supportive of the governor’s decision. He says a recess at this time is inappropriate.
“I have a brand new baby I’ve only spent a few hours with,” says Tuck. “If anybody wants to go home and be with their newborn, it’s me. I’m not interested in taking a vacation. A lot of people are saying, ‘Oh, everybody’s worn out.’ Worn out? We used to have a 120-day session here.”
No matter where the special session is held, a compromise seems elusive.