All the action down in Juneau today has taken place behind closed doors as Gov. Bill Walker shopped around a proposed compromise for the fiscal crisis in hopes to break the gridlock in the final week and a half of the special session.
Judging by the pictures Walker’s office released of a stern-faced governor heading into a meeting and an accompanying statement, Walker knew it wouldn’t be popular.
“I will be the first to admit that this package will not please everyone,” Walker said in the statement. “In fact, there are pieces I don’t like. But we must all give a little to ensure a viable plan is in place well before July 1.”
Walker’s statement came late in the afternoon, but legislators began sharing details of the compromise and their thoughts on it earlier in the day.
Walker’s proposed compromise
The governor’s team took it to heart when he said to use any pieces currently on the table. Most of the pieces were already in play and Walker’s compromise picks from House and Senate—mostly Senate—versions of those bills to piece it together.
It also picks up Sen. Click Bishop’s Senate Bill 12, an education head tax bill that’s essentially a simplified—and pretty regressive—income tax (though some would take issue even comparing it to an income tax) that never got a hearing this session.
The big—and perhaps only—win for the House is Walker’s pick of its operating budget (the one that doesn’t gut schools and the University of Alaska).
Put that aside for now, though, because it sounds like the whole thing is already dead on arrival.
According to KTVA’s Liz Raines, the Democrat-led House Majority isn’t game. Here’s a snippet, but go read the whole story.
“It’s not acceptable to the House majority,” House Majority Leader, Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage) said in an interview Monday afternoon. “He’s negotiating against himself and negotiating against the best interest of Alaska.”
Tuck didn’t describe his specific objections to Raines, but the big things that stand out in Walker’s proposal are his selections of the Senate’s version of oil and gas tax credits (though it adds the House’s ring-fencing) and the Senate’s permanent fund restructure that cuts the dividend deeper than the House proposal.
The House Majority Caucus has yet to make a statement on the compromise, so there’s a chance his colleagues might see it differently, but another House majority member told me, “This isn’t a compromise. This is a giveaway.”
Over in the Republican House minority, Rep. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River, posted the overview of the compromise to her Facebook along with a scathing message:
“Do you see any budget cuts in his so called compromise? Sb12 is an income tax in disguise as an education tax. Motor fuel tax-about 80 million a year. SB 26 capping dividend and restructuring permanent fund. HB 57/59 maintaining massive Operating budget with virtually no meaningful cuts.”
At this time it’s hard to say whether or not some part of this can translate to progress, salvage the session and avert the looming government shutdown. At least the conference committee on the operating budget is meeting Tuesday.
It’d be interesting to hear the governor piece these parts together to understand where he’s expecting the give and take from each chamber. By adopting the Democrat-backed budget—the thing Republicans seem to hate the most—and Republican-backed policies—the thing Democrats seem to hate the most—Walker certainly is asking each side to hold its nose and compromise.