Senate passes budget after long and contentious last day of session

The following are excerpts from two recent editions of the Alaska Policial Report, which is a separate business from the Landmine. The first is from today’s weekly edition. The second is from a special edition that came out yesterday. The Alaska Political Report is delivered via email. If you are interested in more information about the Alaska Political Report, or would like to subscribe, you can click here for more information. You can also email [email protected] if you have any questions or would like to receive a previous edition.

Senate passes budget after long and contentious last day of session (from May 20, 2021 regular edition)

Last night, an hour before the first regular session of the 32nd Alaska Legislature was set to end, the Senate passed a combined operating and capital budget in a 17-3 vote. This came after a long day of closed caucus meetings and floor debate, as well as uncertainty about whether the majority had the votes to pass the budget amid sharp disagreement over the size of the Permanent Fund dividend. After several concessions to the minority like federal funding for a continuous trail from Fairbanks to Seward, it became clear the majority had the votes it needed. In the end only three senators voted against the budget – one majority member, Eagle River Republican Sen. Lora Reinbold, and two minority members, Fairbanks Democrat Sen. Scott Kawasaki and Golovin Democratic Sen. Donny Olson. Two other majority members, Anchorage Republican Sens. Josh Revak and Roger Holland, initially voted no, but changed their votes to yes.

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The Senate’s version of the budget includes an approximately $2,300 dividend, which requires a more than $1.5 billion overdraw of the Permanent Fund earnings reserve account. This amendment would split Permanent Fund revenues roughly the same as Gov. Mike Dunleavy new proposed constitutional amendment, 50-50 between the dividend and government programs, and it passed 12-8. A prior amendment for a full statutory PFD failed in a 10-10 vote. Once the budget passed, it went over to the House for a concurrence vote, which was rejected. Kodiak Republican House Speaker Louise Stutes appointed Nome Democrat Neal Foster and Eagle River Republican Kelly Merrick, the finance co-chairs, and Fairbanks Republican Steve Thompson to the conference committee. After the Senate failed to recede from their amendments, Soldotna Republican Senate President Peter Micciche appointed Sitka Republican Sen. Bert Stedman and Fairbanks Republican Sen. Click Bishop, the finance co-chairs, and Sen. Donny Olson, to the conference committee.

The conference committee held its first organizational meeting this afternoon. Foster was elected chair and Stedman was elected vice-chair. Negotiations, which take place behind closed doors, will happen in the coming days. The larger PFD the Senate passed, along with the overdraw of the earnings reserve, will be the biggest topic of disagreement. Stay tuned for a full breakdown of the conference committee report.

A total of 41 amendments were introduced on the floor yesterday. We were told the minority had many more, including ones that would have caused serious disruption, but were pulled because the minority got some of the things they wanted. Thirteen were adopted, and the others either failed or were withdrawn. Below is a summary of the amendments that passed. You can click here to view all of the amendments (under date 2021-05-19).

  • Amendment 1, offered by Sen. Reinbold, was for an $175,000 for the Muktuk Marston-Hunter Pass trail in the Chugach State Park. It passed unanimously
  • Amendment 5, offered by Sen. Shower, was intent language stating the Department of Administration needs to provide a report by Dec. 1, 2021 that they will acquire the equipment necessary to produce Alaska drivers licenses that won’t require sending personal information to foreign owned corporations or foreign governments. It passed unanimously
  • Amendment 8, offered by Sen. Shower, appropriated approximately $8,700 for National Rifle Association license plates to the Alaska Scholastic Clay Target Program for clay target and other youth shooting programs. It passed unanimously
  • Amendment 9, offered by Sen. Shower, was intent language stating that if a state position is not filled for a continuous 18 months, funding for the position will be cut off. It passed unanimously
  • Amendment 12, offered by Sen. Shower, added responding to COVID-19 as reason for federal tourism grants. It passed unanimously
  • Amendment 14, offered by Sens. Stedman and Bishop, added intent language for a $1,200 one-time bonus payment for people on Alaska’s unemployment insurance program who go back to work. It is paid after four weeks of work. It passed unanimously
  • Amendment 16, offered by Sen. Stedman, was for the Fairbanks to Seward trail. This was the amendment that caused problems at Tuesday’s Senate Finance Committee meeting. Anchorage Democratic Sen. Bill Wielechowski was unhappy that it was voted down after he was told by the co-chairs they would support it. (See yesterday’s special edition). This was a key amendment to getting minority support for the budget. It passed unanimously.
  • Amendment 18, offered by Sen. Kiehl, was $1 million for a new fuel tank and other improvements for University of Alaska Southeast. It passed unanimously
  • Amendment 21, offered by Sen. Begich, added $25,000 to a $2.5 million appropriation for energy mapping in Anchorage. It passed unanimously
  • Amendment 25, offered by Sens. Bishop and Hoffman, added $2 million for the energy weatherization program. It passed unanimously
  • Amendment 26, offered by Sens. Stedman and Bishop, removed $435 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money. The ARPA money comes in two tranches – one this year and one next year. This money is will be appropriated next year. It passed unanimously
  • Amendment 39, offered by Sens. Shower, Costello, Hughes, and Micciche, was for the PFD based on a 50/50 split, approximately $2,300. It passed 12-8. Noteworthy yes votes were Sens. Micciche, Begich, and  Gray Jackson, who voted no on the full PFD (failed 10-10), but yes on this amendment
  • Amendment 40, by Sen. Stedman, transfers over $1.5 billion from the Earnings Reserve to pay for the PFD. It passed 11-9. Fairbanks Republican Sen. Robb Myers, a full PFD supporter, voted for the 50/50 based PFD but against this amendment, which would fund it

Highlights from Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s April 2021 public calendar

  • April 1: Meeting with Alaska Gasline and LNG LLC leaders: Laborers’ Local 341 leader Joey Merrick; Bernie Karl, vice chair of Alaska Energy Authority and owner of Chena Hot Springs; former Alaska Gasline Development Corp. Chief Executive Officer Keith Meyer; former Gov. Bill Walker; current AGDC President Frank Richards; AGDC Board Chair Doug Smith; Attorney General Treg Taylor; Deputy Attorney General Cori Mills
  • April 5: Meeting with Department of Administration officials Dave Donley, Paula Vrana and Kelly Hanke; meeting with Biden’s COVID-19 czar, Jeff Zients; meeting with GCI chief executive Ron Duncan
  • April 6: Kenai Peninsula trip. Marathon Petroleum tour; news conference; meeting with Kenai/Soldotna Chamber board of directors; tour River City Gymnastics
  • April 7: Meeting with Education Commissioner Michael Johnson and consultant/education researcher for Adams Analytic Solutions, Barbara Adams; meeting with Sitka GOP Sen. Stedman
  • April 8: Meeting with Stedman; deliver remarks at City and Borough of Juneau electric bus dedication; meeting with Fairbanks Republican Sen. Click Bishop and Stedman; meeting with Health Commissioner Adam Crum and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink; meeting with House leadership
  • April 9: Meeting with Anchorage Republican Sen. Mia Costello; deliver remarks at Juneau Economic Development Council virtual summit; meeting with chair of the Alaska Redistricting Board John Binkley; call into the Mike Porcaro Show; dinner with Utqiagvik independent Rep. Josiah Patkotak, his family and lobbyist Andy Baker
  • April 10: Skype interview with Fox News Live’s Kristen Fisher; meeting with Transportation Commissioner John MacKinnon
  • April 12: Live radio interview with Fox News Radio’s Brian Kilmeade; live radio interview with Patriot Sirius XM’s Andrew Wilkow; interview with the Juneau Empire’s Peter Segall; meeting with Education Commissioner Michael Johnson and education consultant Barbara Adams; meeting with Bishop and Stedman; meeting with Bethel Democratic Sen. Lyman Hoffman
  • April 13: Deliver remarks at the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce virtual luncheon; in-person interview with Alaska Public Media’s Nat Herz
  • April 14: Live interview with WILK Newsradio – Scranton Wilkes-Barre’s Bob Cordaro; meeting with CHARR, AK Hospitality Retailers, Alaska Chamber, Crum and Zink; meeting of AIDEA Board; deliver remarks at Correctional Officer Academy Graduation; meeting with AFN, Crum, Zink, and Public Health Director Heidi Hedberg
  • April 15: Meeting with Anchorage Democratic Rep. Geran Tarr; meeting with Senate leadership; meeting with Anchorage Democratic Sen. Tom Begich; meeting with Wasilla GOP Rep. Cathy Tilton and Anchorage Republican Rep. Laddie Shaw; meeting with Kodiak Republican House Speaker Louise Stutes; meeting with Hilcorp President Jason Rebrook and Vice President of Government and Public Affairs Justin Furnace
  • April 16: Meeting with Public Safety Commissioner James Cockrell; news conference; meeting with Clark Penney; Mike Porcaro Show
  • April 17: Attend Big Lake Gun Show
  • April 18: Interview with Must Read Alaska’s Suzanne Downing and Gwen Adams
  • April 19: Meeting with Anchorage Republican Sen. Roger Holland; one-on-one meeting with Zink; meeting with religious leaders, Crum, Zink and Hedberg; meeting with Soldotna Republican Senate President Peter Micciche; meeting with Homer Republican Rep. Sarah Vance
  • April 20: Meeting with joint leadership; meeting with Dillingham independent Rep. Bryce Edgmon; deliver virtual remarks at Alaska Travel Industry Association’s Live from Alaska; meeting with Sitka Democratic Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins; meeting with Republican Reps. Tilton, Shaw, Bart LeBon of Fairbanks, Ben Carpenter of Nikiski, DeLena Johnson of Palmer and Steve Thompson of Fairbanks
  • April 21: Live interview with KFAR 660 AM’s Problem Corner with Dave Pruhs; lunch with Stedman and Bishop; phone meeting with Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis; meeting with Corey Mulder of GoldenEye Media; meeting with Anchorage Chamber of Commerce/Infrastructure Port Committee; meeting with Wasilla Republican Sen. Mike Shower
  • April 22: Southeast trip: Meeting with Ketchikan Borough Mayor Rodney Dial, Ketchikan City Mayor Bob Sivertsen, Borough Manager Ruben Duran, City Manager Karl Amylon, Stedman, Saxman Mayor Frank Seludo and other officials; interview with Ketchikan Daily News and Ketchikan Public Radio; meeting with Hyder community and Stedman; meeting with Metlakatla Mayor Reggie Attkinson and council members
  • April 23: Live Skype Interview with Fox Business’ Varney & Co.; RADM Bell’s retirement/Change of Command Ceremony; lunch meeting with Commandant Karl Schultz, RADM Nathan Moore, Murkowski and Sullivan
  • April 24: Tour of solar farm in Willow
  • April: 25: Meeting with Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. Executive Director Angela Rodell and corporation board member Bill Moran; meeting with Eagle River Republican Rep. Kellie Merrick and Nome Democratic Rep. Neal Foster; meeting with Stedman and Bishop; meeting with Stutes Micciche, Tom Begich and Shaw; meeting with Tom Begich
  • April 27: Meeting with joint leadership; meeting with Stutes; meeting with Shaw; meeting with Attorney General Treg Taylor; meeting with Ben Mohr, executive director of the Kenai River Sportfishing Association; dinner meeting with Tilton, Shaw, Sutton GOP Rep. George Rauscher, Anchorage GOP Rep. James Kaufman, North Pole GOP Rep. Mike Prax and Big Lake GOP Rep. Kevin McCabe
  • April 28: Live interview with CBC North’s Meghan Roberts; live radio interview with CBC Radio’s Carolina Deryk; domestic violence/sexual assault working group; meeting with Eagle River Republican Rep. Ken McCarty; meeting with Tok Republican Rep. Mike Cronk
  • April 29: Meeting with House minority; meeting with Department of Fish and Game specialist Rick (Rydell) Green; meeting with Attorney General Treg Taylor; meeting with the City of Unalaska; meeting with the Alaska Bankers Association; meeting with Palmer GOP Sen. Shelley Hughes and Holland
  • April 30:Meeting with Alaska Energy Authority Director Curtis Thayer; meeting with Vance; live on the Mike Porcaro Show

Senate Finance Committee moves budget to floor after tense hearing (from May 19, 2021 special edition)

Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee voted 5-2 to send their version of the operating budget (House Bill 69) to the floor for debate, and then a vote, which is set for later today.

The Senate’s bill rolls in both the capital budget and the Permanent Fund Dividend, with one lawmaker jokingly calling the omnibus legislation a “turducken.” The House’s operating budget did not include a PFD, and their capital budget was, as usual, in a separate bill.

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Yesterday, the Senate Finance Committee heard amendments and made some significant changes to the budget. The meeting also included a tense moment involving an amendment from Anchorage Democrat Bill Wielechowski, who wanted to spend $14.2 million in federal COVID-19 relief aid to piece together a continuous trail from Seward to Fairbanks. After a lengthy at ease, the amendment failed in a 5-2 vote.

Wielechowski said he was “extremely disappointed” with the vote because, as he described it, the committee’s leaders sat in his office, promised they would support it, then went back on their word. Sitka Republican Bert Stedman, who co-chairs the committee, acknowledged that he said he would support Wielechowski’s proposal, but added that he does not speak for the committee. Stedman voted no on the amendment. After the meeting, Stedman said it would have been hard to vote for the trail proposal after Golovin Democrat Donny Olson withdrew two amendments for capital projects in his district – something the committee ensured him they would work on later this year. This tension will likely spill over to the floor, where Wielechowski and the minority will have less of a reason to cooperate with the majority. Look for several controversial budget amendments from the minority today.

There were 25 budget amendments introduced in the Senate Finance Committee yesterday, though several were withdrawn. A summary is below. Keep in mind that the Senate’s budget will serve as the upper limits for many of the line items included in the proposal, some of which will likely be reduced or eliminated through negotiations with the state House when the two chambers’ budget plans go to conference committee.

  • Amendment 1, offered by the entire committee, added an additional $2 billion transfer from the Earnings Reserve (approximately $17 billion) to the corpus (approximately $59 billion) of the Permanent Fund, making the total transfer $4 billion. It passed unanimously
  • Amendment 2, offered by Stedman, provided for a $1,000 PFD. This would cost approximately $675 million, and would be paid out of the Constitutional Budget Reserve, leaving only around $500 million. It passed 4-3
  • Amendment 3, offered by Wasilla Republican David Wilson, provided for a more than $2,000 PFD. This amendment was based off the constitutional 50-50 split of Permanent Fund revenue proposed by GOP Gov. Mike Dunleavy has proposed. It failed 4-3
  • Amendment 4, offered by Wielechowski, provided for a full statutory PFD of more than $3,000. It failed 4-3, with Bethel Democrat Lyman Hoffman voting no
  • Amendment 5, offered by Stedman, was a technical amendment that extended the date to accept federal Covid funds to June 30, 2022. It passed unanimously
  • Amendment 6, offered by Fairbanks Republican Click Bishop, a committee co-chair, was at the request of the Department of Natural Resources for fines and penalties for a hemp pilot program. It passed unanimously
  • Amendment 7, offered by Bishop and Anchorage Republican Natasha von Imhof, added $3.5 million, with a 100% federal match, for enhanced psychiatric services. It passed unanimously
  • Amendment 8, offered by Hoffman, was $30 million in federal aid for food security. It boosts food security grants from the Department of Commerce to $20 million from $5 million. It provides the same increase for the Department of Fish and Game’s food security enhancement projects. It passed unanimously
  • Amendment 9, offered by Wielechowski, asked Dunleavy to accept the $300 a week in federal unemployment benefits that the governor rejected in the past week. After some debate and discussion, Wielechowski withdrew the amendment and said he’s working with the co-chairs on a floor amendment
  • Amendment 10, offered by Wilson, added $211,000 for a third deputy commissioner for the Department of Administration — a position that was removed during the finance subcommittee process. Hoffman, who chaired the relevant subcommittee, said the position is not needed. The amendment failed 6-1
  • Amendment 11, offered by Wielechowski, reduced the appropriation for previously owed oil tax credits from $114 million, the statutory minimum included in the House’s budget, to just over $36 million. It passed unanimously. The committee said the final amount would be negotiated in the conference committee
  • Amendment 12, offered by Wilson, reduced funding to the university by $10 million. It was withdrawn
  • Amendment 13, offered by Wielechowski, eliminated funding for the West Susitna road project. It failed 5-2
  • Amendment 14, offered by Wielechowski, reduced federal funding to pay for Department of Fish and Game litigation against the federal government to protect the state’s rights to manage its waterways. The reduction was $1.25 million. Bishop said the line item had already been reduced from $7 million to $5.25 million. The amendment failed 5-
  • Amendment 15, offered by Wielechowski, cut money for RS 2477 for navigable waterways. It was withdrawn
  • Amendments 16 and 17, offered by Olson, would have added a wastewater treatment plant in Nome for $8.5 million and a tank replacement and new water and sewer system for Diomede for $7.5 million, all in federal funds. After discussion, Olson withdrew the amendments with the guarantee the committee will work with him on this in the future
  • Amendment 18, offered by Wielechowski, was the $14.2 million for the trail from Fairbanks to Seward referenced above. It ultimately failed 5-2
  • Amendment 19, offered by Wielechowski, made contingent the $10 million Gov. Dunleavy requested for pavement improvement for the Mat-Su only if the same amount went to the Municipality of Anchorage for pavement improvement — a proposal that Wilson, who represents Wasilla, was not happy about. It initially passed 4-3, but later, Hoffman asked to rescind the committee’s vote. It then failed 4-3, with Hoffman changing his vote
  • Amendments 20-25, offered by Wielechowski, used federal funds for another trail proposal and a variety of items for the Pioneer Homes. They were all withdrawn

Thank you for reading this edition of the Alaska Political Report. If you have any questions/concerns please send an email to [email protected] 

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1 month ago

$1200 to go back to work. Haha poor sucker’s that work or already go to work.
I cry bullshit. Go if you see kay yourself elected pigs

29 days ago

O jeff
Its monday.

Elaine S O'Brien
28 days ago

Doesn’t Dunleavy appear on any other national media besides Fox News?