Walker to Legislature: No more special sessions (or per diem) until there’s a deal

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

Gov. Bill Walker said he won’t be calling another special session on the capital budget or any other priority until the Legislature can first agree on a deal.

Walker said at a news conference today he didn’t see any reason to call all 60 legislators to a special session to just have it play out like the last two sessions. Legislators waited until the very last hour of the second special session on Saturday night to agree on and pass House Bill 111. Much of the session had been seemingly unproductive and a deal didn’t seem possible until the final 72 hours of the session.

“I think that the approach will be that could happen, but not until there’s a reason for it to happen. Not just throw more time out there without a specific product,” he said. “I’m not ruling that out, but what I’m not going to do is roll in another 30 days … because—and this isn’t any inside baseball—when they have something ready to go, we’ll do it and we’ll be done.”

7/17/17 Press Conference: End of 2nd Special Session of the Thirtieth Alaska State Legislature from Alaska Governor Bill Walker on Vimeo.

The decision comes after legislators spent 180 consecutive days in session, the longest in state history. The lengthy sessions also allowed legislators to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in per diem, which became the feature of a KTVA report last week. The report revealed nearly $400,000 had been paid out in per diem during the two special sessions. Some legislators brought in as much as $14,000 in per diem claims and not all claims have yet been filed.

Tax credits still a headache

Though the House and Senate finally agreed on a bill to end the state’s cashable tax credit program and replace it with tax deductions, the issue of tax credits isn’t going to go away. One of the biggest differences between the House and Senate capital budgets—other than the fact the House capital budget still contains the operating budget—is the amount of money that will go to paying down the credits the state hasn’t paid.

Also at play will in the House’s interest is funding for the University of Alaska system’s deferred maintenance program. The Senate wants $5 million for the funding, while the House wants something closer to $7 or $8 million for the university. This comes after the chambers agreed on a further cut to the university budget this year.

Walker said he hopes to have the capital budget approved by July 31 because any later could begin to affect and delay state capital projects.

“It definitely has an impact, we think that if we can do it by the end of this month it will have the minimal impact,” he said. “Every day has an impact don’t get me wrong, but It becomes more significant if we’re talking about September or October.”

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