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Legislature ends abruptly, three days ahead of deadline

House maneuver forces Senate to accept its version of capital budget

Posted: May 15, 2011 - 10:43am

Senators said late Saturday that they were forced by House leaders into spending more and saving less than they wanted after the House suddenly adjourned Saturday, and prior to the Tuesday deadline to close 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, prior to the House’s adjournment.

Instead, House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, adjourned his body for the year immediately after passage of the more than $3 billion capital budget.

The House’s action left the Senate with two options: Either accept exactly what the House decided, or leave Alaska with no capital budget at all.

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

Last week, Senate Finance Co-chairman Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak, said the Senate should pass the budget and send it to the House, and work out any differences in such a committee.

That’s what Stoltze said should be done to work out the differences on the “contingency” language which earlier held up the budget process.

“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.

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, Stoltze’s budget counterpart in the Senate, said he was disappointed in the House’s action.

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

Chenault said the fault lay with the Senate, for delaying in sending the capital budget to the House. 

“I don’t want to throw arrows at the members down the hall (Senate) but they threw some arrows today,” he said. 

House Majority Leader Alan Austerman, R-Kodiak, said he another legislative leaders would work to repair any damaged relationships.

“It’s advantageous to us in the House to try to build better relationships and we’ll work on that over the interim,” he said.

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

 

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