Alaska governor calls special sessions on budget, spending
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Thursday called a special session that would begin next week, after the current regular session ends, and would focus on the budget and his proposals for the annual check residents receive from the state’s oil-wealth fund.
He also announced a second special session, scheduled to begin Aug. 2, that would address topics including a proposed spending limit, revenue and spending of federal recovery dollars.
Both special sessions would be in Juneau.
The first special session is scheduled to begin May 20, the day after the scheduled end of the regular session.
Still unresolved are state spending plans and a decision on the size of this year’s permanent fund dividend. For decades, a formula was used to decide dividends but that decision in recent years has been made by lawmakers amid a continued budget deficit. There has been interest in trying to settle the debate over the dividend program that has overshadowed other issues.
Dunleavy, in a statement, said it was clear from talks with legislative leaders that more time was needed to complete work on the budget and address “a long-term, permanent solution to protecting” the nest-egg permanent fund and permanent fund dividend.
He has proposed a constitutional amendment that would in part restructure the permanent fund, rolling its spendable earnings reserve into the fund’s constitutionally protected principal, and establish a new formula for permanent fund dividends.
Dunleavy told reporters he also wants to address the deficit and would be open to “anything and everything that helps solve the problem.”
House Minority Leader Cathy Tilton, a Republican, said Dunleavy has set the stage with the special sessions for discussions of a “full circle plan.”
It remains to be seen if agreements can be reached.
Before learning of the special session plans, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Begich said his preference would be to finish the budget in the current session and have lawmakers take a break before going into a special session on the dividend issue.
After learning Dunleavy’s plans, he said legislators need a break of maybe five or 10 days “to get our perspective back.” Begich said a 30-day special session allows for that.