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Oil tax, other bills head for late session crunch

90-day session again faces criticism

Posted: March 28, 2012 - 12:02am

With the scheduled end of the 90-day legislative session less than three week away, legislators are questioning how they’ll get done in time.

Tuesday, Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, said he no longer expected to meet a self-imposed deadline of passing a closely watched oil tax reduction bill out of the Senate Finance Committee by Friday.

Work would begin on re-writing the version of Senate Bill 192 by Wednesday, later than expected, he said. That’s set back the process.

“Clearly, if we start writing tomorrow, it will not be done by Friday. It’ll be next week, “ Stedman said.

Gov. Sean Parnell in recent weeks has expressed increasing frustration with the Senate, saying it wasn’t acting quickly enough on his proposed oil tax cut.

“There’s an urgency that’s being missed by senators,” he said.

If the Senate Finance Committee passes Senate Bill 192 next week, it will then have to go to the full Senate. Following Senate passage, it would then go to the House, where will likely be considered by the Resources and Finance Committees.

“If we get the bill with two weeks left, is that going to be enough time?” asked House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, last week.

April 15 is the scheduled end of the 90-day legislative session.

House members have been watching the process in the Senate, but not as closely as they follow House bills he said. Despite the short time remaining, Chenault promised a thorough review.

The House last year passed its own oil tax, a bill senators said gave away $2 billion a year in state revenue with no guarantees of new production. Some of the claims made in the House last year, such as declining jobs on the North Slope and the risk of closure of the trans-Alaska pipeline within 10 years due to low flows were questioned in the Senate’s committee process. That bill stalled in the Senate.

The House has yet to see, let alone question, the Senate’s replacement tax bill.

While the oil tax bill is garnering most of the attention, numerous other bills are also stalled and awaiting action in both houses of the Legislature.

House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, said the 90-day legislative session does not provide adequate time for adequate review of all the bills before the two Houses.

“There’s a lot of bills that will not get passed this year based on the fact that we don’t have enough time in a 90-day session,” agreed Alan Austerman, R-Kodiak, who is also the House Majority Leader.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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