Alaska lawmakers seeking to agree on long-term changes to the state budget said Wednesday, in their first Meet, that they want to reach compromises which have so far escaped the legislature.
Senator Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, is one of eight members of the new budget task force. She said the group recommendations will lead to change if they can gain the support of lawmakers from all parts of the state.
“We want to come up with a real, achievable and realistic package – built around consensus – that will get the necessary votes,” Hughes said at the Anchorage Legislative Information Office meeting. “And it’s not easy. As we know, for six years.
The state spends far more than it increases in revenue since the oil price drop in 2014.
The task force may consider changing the formula for determining the dividends of the Permanent Fund, lowering the maximum amount the state government can spend and increasing new or higher taxes. And he can recommend that those changes be made to state law or through amendments to the Alaskan Constitution.
The legislative leaders’ goal is for the task force’s recommendations to be presented to the entire Legislature at the next special session.
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Governor Mike Dunleavy has called for a special session to begin on August 2. But task force members and legislative leaders have raised the possibility that the date may be pushed back if the group progresses and needs more time.
A Dunleavy spokesperson, however, said the governor still intends to start the special session on August 2.
Lawmakers were unable to reach agreement on major issues such as changing the formula for the Permanent Fund.
Several members of the working group expressed the importance of making compromises.
Democratic Senator from Bethel, Lyman Hoffman, one of the group’s co-chairs, noted that legislative leaders are committed to each chamber acting on the group’s recommendations.
Hoffman is the longest-serving lawmaker in Alaskan history. He spoke of the challenges the legislature has faced in proposing amendments to the state constitution.
“I would like to remind the people of Alaska, the House of Representatives and senators, and especially the members of this committee: we have the opportunity to have the battle. We may not all win it. But at the end of the day, we should accept the job that has been done, ”Hoffman said.
The eight members of the group are divided equally among the four legislative caucuses.
Members of the Senate are Majority Senators Hoffman and Hughes, and Minority Senators Scott Kawasaki, a Democrat from Fairbanks, and Jesse Kiehl, a Democrat from Juneau.
Members of the House are Majority Caucus Representatives Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, a Democrat from Sitka who will serve with Hoffman as co-chair, and Calvin Schrage, an Independent from Anchorage, and Minority Caucus Representatives Ben Carpenter, a Republican of Nikiski, and Kevin McCabe, a Republican from Big Lake.
Hoffman said the group could meet as often as twice a week, starting next week. The date of the next meeting has been tentatively set for Tuesday in Anchorage. Hoffman said future meetings could take place in Juneau, Fairbanks and the Borough of Matanuska-Susitna.