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No noticeable progress at Legislature on Monday

Special session continues with sides remaining firm in battle over capital budget

Posted: April 25, 2011 - 8:23pm

The Alaska Legislature spent just minutes in official meetings Monday, as negotiations continued behind closed doors during the day.

Senate leaders are trying to make sure Gov. Sean Parnell doesn’t retaliate against those who blocked the oil tax reductions with his line-item veto.

To do that, they’ve grouped $400 million in energy projects thought to be at risk of a veto together in the capital budget in a way that makes them difficult to eliminate individually.

A couple of other issues are also in play, including coastal management and extra school money.

The House and Senate Finance Committee co-chairs are negotiating those issues, with Parnell also playing a part and siding with the House’s leadership.

Senate Majority Leader Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, said it appears progress is being made, though it is difficult to see it publicly.

“I think it all boils down to getting some resolution on the capital budget, but at least they’re talking so we’re encouraged,” he said.

He said agreements could be reached on the other issues if the sticky capital budget issue is resolved.

The Senate is proposing spending $2.68 billion in capital projects next year, with about $1 billion of that coming from the federal government.

Rep. Peggy Wilson, R-Wrangell, a member of the House leadership team, said her majority caucus is firmly behind its negotiators in opposing the Senate plan to take the energy projects as a group.

They should get individual review by the governor, she said.

“There’s energy projects in there that people never even asked for, that’s ridiculous,” she said.

She also raised questions about the size of the budget.

“We shouldn’t be spending that much money anyway, not in one lump sum when we don’t know what the future is holding for us,” she said.

Rep. Mike Doogan, D-Anchorage, sees it differently, and wonders why the House is getting in the middle of a battle between the Senate and the governor.

“If you were to trace back to the start of the problem it would be because Sean Parnell wanted $2 billion a year to give to his pals in the oil industry and the Senate decided they weren’t going to give it to him,” Doogan said.

“What the House majority is doing in this fight is just beyond me,” he said.

Both the House and Senate have scheduled floor sessions for this morning, but there was no indication late Monday they’d have anything new on which to deliberate.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 586-4816 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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