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House Finance Committee to hold hearing in Anchorage

Egan, Kerttula criticize leaving Juneau during budget showdown

Posted: April 27, 2011 - 8:46pm
Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, left, and Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines, speak during a House Majority press conference at the Capitol on Wednesday. Stoltze and Thomas, both co-chairs of the House Finance Committee announced they will be holding hearings in Anchorage Friday.   Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, left, and Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Haines, speak during a House Majority press conference at the Capitol on Wednesday. Stoltze and Thomas, both co-chairs of the House Finance Committee announced they will be holding hearings in Anchorage Friday.

Editor's note: This article has been edited to correct the name of Attorney General John Burns.

The House Finance Committee will move its deliberations to Anchorage, hoping to get more favorable media coverage in ongoing budget battles.

“I think that sets a horrible precedent,” said Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau.

“We’re in special session in Juneau, it makes sense for me for the House to hold their meetings here,” he said.

Rep. Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, who in the past has been an advocate of moving the capital closer to his hometown, said he made the decision to hold the hearing there, but it had wide support in the Republican-led House Majority.

“We talked to our whole caucus about it, as we do with every issue, and they all thought it was a good idea,” Stoltze said.

Rep. Cathy Muñoz, R-Juneau, is a member of that caucus. She declined comment Wednesday.

Stoltze later modified his comment, saying the decision was supported by “everybody I talked to.”

Stoltze said the Anchorage hearing will be to hold hearings on the state capital budget, including to hear from the Alaska Energy Authority’s Sara Fisher-Goad and the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation’s Dan Fauske about the budget’s energy projects and Attorney General John Burns discussing the Senate’s proposed contingency and severability language, which would void the entire capital budget if Gov. Sean Parnell uses his line-item veto power on one part of it. Many senators fear Parnell would use his veto power to strike projects favored by legislators who opposed his oil tax reductions.

At a Capitol press conference, House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, said the media was siding with the Senate by saying the impasse was about the oil tax issue, and not the budget language.

“You guys have crafted it very well, along with the Senate, that it’s all about oil taxes and what the governor may or may not have said,” Chenault said.

Stoltze said he hoped the House would have a better chance to make its case to Anchorage reporters, because those in Juneau have “bought into” the argument that the impasse is linked to oil taxes.

The Anchorage hearing provides “another venue to discuss the issue, maybe a different set of fresh eyes of the press on it,” he said.

In Anchorage, the House Finance Committee may see some familiar faces. Three Anchorage media outlets, the Anchorage Daily News, KTUU-TV and the Alaska Dispatch website all brought their reporters home as the special session dragged on.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, said the special session’s meetings should be held in Juneau.

“The caucus thinks it’s unnecessary, it’s an added expense and I don’t see any good reason for it,” she said, noting the meeting would take only invited testimony and not be a public hearing.

“Sara Fisher-Goad I saw in the hallway here today, and other people saw the attorney general, so they’ll have to fly to Anchorage,” she said.

Senate Finance Committee Co-chairman Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, said it was curious the House Finance Committee was now holding hearings on a bill it has refused to hold hearings on for weeks because it wasn’t officially in their possession.

“It’s rather odd behavior,” he said.

Rep. Mike Doogan, D-Anchorage, said he would not be going to his hometown for the meeting, but would instead wait in Juneau for a budget deal with the governor he said is needed to break the impasse.

Stoltze said there was no reason not to go to Anchorage.

“Frankly, there’s not a lot going on around here,” he said.

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

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