Alaska governor agrees to delayed special session start
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy delayed until Aug. 16 the start of the next special session, following a request by legislative leaders for more time.
The special session had been set to begin on Monday.
In a letter dated Wednesday, legislative leaders said three caucuses preferred an Aug. 16 start, while the bipartisan House majority coalition preferred an Aug. 9 start. Special sessions can last up to 30 days.
The letter was signed by Senate President Peter Micciche, House Speaker Louise Stutes, Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich and House Minority Leader Cathy Tilton.
The letter said a delay would provide legislators and staff “a hard date to make procedural preparations and the ability to make the transition to Juneau” for the session. It also said it would provide extra time “for fiscal plan items under consideration to be reviewed.”
Dunleavy announced plans for an Aug. 2 special session in May. It was supposed to build off a special session convened in May, during which Dunleavy wanted lawmakers to work on the budget and address his proposal to restructure the state’s oil-wealth fund and put a formula for the annual dividend paid to residents in the state constitution.
But the budget consumed the special session that began in May and there were concerns among lawmakers about the assumptions underlying Dunleavy’s permanent fund proposal and taking up such a proposal without other pieces of a state fiscal plan.
Budget work spilled into a late June special session, and the House, to secure effective date provision votes Dunleavy said were needed for the budget to take effect July 1, approved creating a House-Senate working group to come up with fiscal plan recommendations.
The committee hasn’t advanced any proposals yet, and the budget work isn’t completed yet, either. Both chambers failed to secure key votes that left in limbo funding for things such as the Power Cost Equalization program that helps with rural utility costs.
A lawsuit aimed at forcing the release of funds for that program is pending. A court hearing is set for next week.
Dunleavy’s office said the Department of Revenue has asked to present its latest revenue and spending projections to the work group before it finalizes any recommendations.
The original August special session agenda set by Dunleavy included his proposed constitutional amendments around a spending limit and taxes and “measures to increase state revenues.”
An amended agenda from Dunleavy, dated Thursday, added Dunleavy’s permanent fund proposal to the list. His constitutional proposal dealing with taxes, which sought to give voters a veto over any new state taxes established by lawmakers, was removed.