Friday in the Sun (June 16, 2017): The House Majority’s budget, the PFD lawsuit and a puzzling political challenger

Friday in the Sun is here

Speculating on rumors and gossip surrounding Alaska politics is a time-honored tradition. It’s time for our weekly trip through the grand, gross, weird, wild and wonderful world of Alaska politics.

I had hoped to add some gifs to this post, but ran out of time. Blame the surprise House floor session. Tune in next week.

The House Majority’s budget ploy

Update: I may like gossip, but I also like to be right. I got an update from some people directly involved in the following item and want to set the record straight on this matter.

The House Majority offered a deal to the Senate Majority some time on Thursday that included or was focused on expanding some sort of broad-based revenue–likely some version of Senate Bill 12. This had the support of the House Majority, but the deal with killed by the Senate. The Senate was firm on its no-tax stance that it adopted midway through the session. It leaves folks, particularly those in the House, doubting the Senate will ever earnestly consider taxes.

Senate President Pete Kelly said on Friday that the Senate would consider it, but refused to pledge anything beyond that. It’ll make the next two weeks of session interesting.

The House Majority’s pragmatists, Speaker Bryce Edgmon and Rep. Neal Foster, had been pushing for a negotiated compromise with the Senate. Rumor has it they were either very close or had already reached a deal before the idealists (basically everyone else in leadership) put the kibosh on it.

The talk of restoring the permanent fund and the all-in-one budget approach emerged as early as Monday night after the House Majority met in caucus. That’s where the pragmatists were sidelined, though they may have kept up the negotiation attempts through the week.

What we saw emerge last night—a night that Rep. Dan Saddler compared to Pearl Harbor—wasn’t necessarily meant to pass the Senate. Instead, it’s been pitched as an attempt to force Senate President Pete Kelly to the negotiating table on the rest of the fiscal plan.

Kelly’s statement on the House budget seems to show he’s there, but there’s now doubt about whether the House Majority was ever there.

Even some folks who agree with the House Majority’s position were appalled by the move. They said the minority should at least been brought in on this, given the time to review it and given the chance to come on board. A united House could have been a powerful thing.

The House Majority even tried to meet the demands of the minority in the budget, though you’d never know. According to Rep. Paul Seaton, the runner of the 89-page Amendment 17, the minority had only asked for $100 million of cuts. Seaton said there were more than $60 million of cuts to the operating budget, including a $15.2 million cut to Medicaid, “various cuts to the Department of Transportation” and an $8 million cut to the University of Alaska.

It also fully funded the dividend.

Speaking about the PFD

Majority members of the Senate Finance Committee have apparently been told that the state isn’t so sure about its chances with the permanent fund dividend lawsuit, which is up for oral arguments in front of the Supreme Court next week. This is the case brought by Sen. Bill Wielechowski and others. His case was already thrown out by the Superior Court, so this case is largely about whether or not the Superior Court was right in that decision.

Whether or not the Department of Law is nervous about the entire case or just the appeal is unclear, and it’s possible there’s other goals at play here. If the Supreme Court sides with Wielechowski, it could just send it back to the lower court for further review.

Speaking about things that could become initiatives

There’s talk outside the Legislature about a voter initiative similar to House Bill 111. The oil industry’s least favorite attorney is rumored to be involved with the effort. Such a move would certainly make the 2018 elections more interesting as the initiative, like the 2014 referendum on Senate Bill 21, would attract massive spending. Good for newspapers and TV stations, at least.

Speaking of the 2018 elections

Last week Kelly, Senate Majority Leader Peter Micciche and Sen. Mia Costello were said to be up in Fairbanks. There’s speculation they may have been up here to talk politics and the 2018 elections, but no one seems to know for sure. Both Kelly and Micciche are frequently discussed as potential candidates for governor. Though word is Kelly, at least, isn’t particularly interested in the bid.

Also speaking of elections

Rumor has it House Majority Leader Chris Tuck is in the run-off to become IBEW’s business manager as of last weekend. There’s no word about his plans for the Legislature if he wins.

Back to the 2018 elections

There’s word a legislative staffer could be considering a run against his boss, a well-known and well-liked Republican. If it’s true, it’d be a real slap in the face that the political donor class won’t take lightly.

Speaking of slaps

Sen. David Wilson, known now for slapping a reporter, was caught trying to listen in to the House Majority caucus meeting on Thursday night. He’s apparently a cartoon villain because he literally put his ear up to the door. House legislators say he had to be escorted away.

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