When faced with a long list of tasks and a deadline, most of us prioritize those chores into three categories: things we gotta do, things we should do and things we’d like to do, but don’t have to.
The Legislature, however, somehow didn’t get that flowchart of basic organization when it came to its 2011 regular session. The House and Senate have just one thing they gotta do: pass an operating budget, and that didn’t get done despite 90 days of debate on Fourth Street.
It’s easy to look at the Senate and blame it for its failure to pass the House’s plan for the expenditure of $6-plus billion of our dollars. However, the plague of public contempt should lie on both houses after a conference committee made up of members of both chambers failed to reconcile the spending plans of the House and Senate, despite having nearly two weeks to do so. The fate of the $1.4 billion capital budget might more squarely be laid on the Senate, since that body has failed to even get the measure out of committee, despite having three months to do so.
The bickering that has held these spending measures seems rooted less in Republican versus Democrat — the House passed its version of the operating budget with a bipartisan 36-3 vote — and more about the chambers at odds with each other and Gov. Sean Parnell. While its nice to see political arguments based on something other than pure partisanship, the resulting gridlock is anything but fresh and the delay is no different to Alaskans who rely on the Legislature to quickly and correctly allocate funds. Those waiting to find out how their jobs or critical projects will be funded will have to wait. Perhaps they can catch up on correct procedures for handling the state flag or walk the newly named Mark Hufford Trail while they wait. Fortunately, the Legislature found the time to pass those critical measures.
Since the fighting to this point has soured us, and we suspect a good number of both legislators and constituents on the budgeting process this year, we won’t ask the chambers to reconcile their differences while sweetly smiling. But we will ask them to do so quickly.
The analogy to overtime in sports has been used, perhaps overused, in reference to the special session that began Monday. But we’ll dust it off to ask this Legislature to cause a ‘sudden death overtime’ by quickly concluding the people’s business. Just because the law allows for 30 extra days doesn’t mean they all must be used, and we hope they won’t.