House pushes budget through and quits, leaving Senate few options and Republicans seething

House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, left, confers with Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, and Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, during a break in floor debate on the House Majority’s budget proposal on Thursday. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO and Alaska Public Media)

The Alaska House passed a new budget Thursday night. It combined the operating and capital budgets.

The House adjourned from the special session, leaving the Senate with no option but to accept or reject the House budget. Republican Senate President Pete Kelly immediately rejected it.

House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, said the combined spending plan was an attempt to avoid a state government shutdown after the House and Senate failed to reach a compromise.

“We put together what we thought was the best package,” Edgmon said. “We’ve sent (it) over to the Senate. Now it’s up to them to make the decision whether to accept it or to reject it. And then from there, we’re back into no man’s land, with a clock that’s ticking louder day by day.”

The budget would draw nearly $5 billion from Permanent Fund earnings.

House minority Republicans objected to the speed with which the majority introduced and passed the measure. Minority Leader Charisse Millett also objected to Edgmon limiting each member to two minutes to debate the budget.

“Nobody can tell me what’s contained in this bill,” Millett said. “So, Mr. Speaker, I urge everybody on this floor to vote no. Let’s start over.”

The bill would increase education funding. And it would raise Permanent Fund dividends to the full amount of roughly $2,200.

Independent Gov. Bill Walker criticized the House majority.

“They did not get the job done for Alaska,” Walker said in a press release. “A compromise is required to protect Alaskans and put the state on a stable fiscal path.”

Friday is the last day of the special session. Walker could call the Legislature into another special session as soon as tomorrow. The state government will shut down if the Legislature doesn’t pass a budget before July 1.