Capitol maneuvering leaves capital budget in doubt

House Representative Max Gruenberg D-Anchorage had an agenda in mind as what were anticipated as the last hours of the 2011 Alaska State Legislature ticked down Saturday night. The House was weighing whether to accept a compromise on a coastal management bill and to transmit their version of the capital budget to the Senate.

Senators said late Saturday they are being forced by House leaders into spending more and saving less than they wanted after the House suddenly adjourned Saturday, before the mandatory Tuesday end of the 30-day special session.

Senate leaders earlier Saturday, as rumors of the pending House adjournment plan spread, called upon House leaders to instead negotiate a lower budget amount with the Senate.

“We’d like to see more savings, and we’d like to see a reduction in the budget,” said Senate President Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak.

Typically differences between House and Senate budget versions are settled with conference committees, which House leaders had earlier said they intended.

Senate Finance Committee Co-chairman Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, last week said the Senate should pass the budget and send it to the House, and work out any differences in the usual manner.

“Our position is, let’s both bodies pass the capital budget, (for) which we need to have the Senate Bill 46 in our possession, we have differences of opinion on the language section” Stoltze said last week.

“Let’s have a conference committee on that in the openness of the public,” he said.

Instead, after the Senate transmitted the budget bill to the House, the House passed its own, larger version, held it until Saturday, and then adjourned.

That left the Senate with a decision: Either accept the House version or leave the state without a capital budget.

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, expressed disappointment with the House’s action Saturday.

“Clearly it’s not in good faith,” he said

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

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