Walker calls budget-only special session after the first one went down in flames

It's the opioid news conferenceWalker speaks at a news conference earlier in the 2017 legislative session. (Photo by Office of the Governor)

The Senate didn’t even entertain the take-it-or-leave-it budget the House rushed through last night. Instead, the Senate met for a few minutes and adjourned sine die, bringing the 30-day session to an end.

Before senators could meet in a press conference to accuse the House Majority of blowing up the negotiations, Gov. Bill Walker already called them back to work.

The second special session is set to begins today at 1 p.m. The only item on the agenda is the operating budget, the one item really needed to avert the July 1 government session. Walker hasn’t given up on a full fiscal plan but focus is needed to get a budget passed, he said in a news conference.

“That should not be misinterpreted that I’m not fully committed to new revenues,” he said, “That option is still available, but at this point I must focus solely on one issue and one issue alone and that issue is the operating budget so we do not have a government shutdown.”

Walker said revenue measures could be added to the special session agenda if he sees good reason to do so.

The governor’s special session is seen as a win for the Senate Majority, which has called for an operating budget-only special session. Without leverage on the operating budget, the House likely sees its ability to push for an income tax, a less aggressive restructure of the permanent fund and more aggressive oil and gas taxes diminished.

Though the Senate backs a permanent fund restructure and ending the cashable oil and gas tax credit program, it’s generally sought a status quo approach when it comes to new revenues. The Senate Majority has, so far, only pledged to consider new revenues some point after a budget has passed, but won’t guarantee a vote.

The House Majority has made it clear that it’s not on board with revenues that only tap the earnings from the permanent fund, hence the fully funded dividend earlier this week.

Walker said he might be able to support a bigger dividend in an operating budget-only situation, which charts a potential path toward a budget before July 1.

“It could be,” he said. “I’ll make that decision when it comes across my desk and I’ll see what else is out there.”

Shedding light on negotiations

The House Majority opened the morning with a news conference where it said the Senate majority refused to even entertain key pieces of its fiscal plan, such as oil and gas taxes and a broad-based tax. The House Majority framed its all-or-nothing budget as the only acceptable path in light of the failure to pass a fiscal plan.

The Senate Majority painted a picture of a dysfunctional House Majority that’s rife with infighting. Specifically, Senate President Pete Kelly said he was approached with a budget deal by the House Majority, but that it was withdrawn before he had an opportunity to shop it by his caucus.

The House and Senate were set to get underway at 1 p.m., but as of posting only the Senate had gaveled in.

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