House passes budget in attemp to avert shutdown

Jun 28, 2021

The Alaska House has voted to avert a state government shutdown.

In a Monday floor session, the House voted 28 to 10 to allow the budget bill to go into effect Thursday, July 1. Among the no votes were all the peninsula’s House representatives — Ben Carpenter, of Nikiski, Ron Gillham, of Soldotna, and Sarah Vance, of Homer.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy will have to decide what step to take next. If he signs the budget, it will avert a state government shutdown, which would otherwise begin Thursday.

The Legislature had previously passed a budget bill but contention remained about the day the bill would go into effect. The House had voted 23-16 on June 15 against the budget bill starting  July 1, the first day of the budget year. The state constitution requires two-thirds of both chambers to agree to make bills effective on a date other than 90 days after bills become laws. While the Senate cleared that two-thirds bar, the House didn’t.

The vote Monday came after some Republican members expressed concern about the order of the votes.

This led to the House first passing a motion saying it’s the “sense of the House” that a working group make recommendations on a long-term plan for the state budget before the next special session. The working group would be composed of members from all four caucuses within the Legislature and focused on finding a solution to outstanding issues, including the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend.

Louise Stutes, a Kodiak Republican, said there was miscommunication over the timing of the votes between her and House Minority Leader Cathy Tilton, a Wasilla Republican.

Dunleavy, a Republican, said  June 17 that without a different outcome, much of state government would shut down July 1. Members of the mostly Democratic House majority disagreed with his interpretation of the constitution and said he was choosing to have a shutdown. The Dunleavy administration sued over the disagreement. Oral arguments on that lawsuit are scheduled for Tuesday.

Senate President Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, thanked the House in a statement and said the Senate was pleased with the outcome. But he said many in the Legislature were not pleased with the PFD situation this year and were looking forward to working together in the future to find better solutions.

“However, make no mistake, we have much work left to do this year,” Micciche said in the statement. “The teamwork that began this week with all four caucuses must continue so that we can pass an acceptable PFD and a three-quarter vote for the remaining work to be completed in this budget cycle.”

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabethearl@gmail.com.