Previewing the Upcoming Alaska Legislative Session

At a Thursday discourse seeing the up and coming Alaska administrative session, Senate President Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, had a message for those requesting that chose pioneers “get to yes” on a deficiency decrease arrange for that incorporates charges.

“I would prefer not to get to yes on an arrangement that removes cash from the private part,” Kelly said. “My objective this year is to get to no. In the event that somebody raises the duties, I’m getting to no.” Kelly and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, conveyed their “authoritative reviews” at an Anchorage breakfast meeting of the Resource Development Council, an expert oil, mining, timber, tourism and fisheries gathering. The yearly occasion is commonly a stage for top officials to lay out their needs for the session, which begins Jan. 16 in Juneau.

The state’s elected officials have been fighting for the past three years over how to solve a massive budget crisis stemming from a crash in oil income. Revenues are only projected to cover about half of this year’s state spending, with the rest coming from nearly empty savings accounts. For those wanting respite from the Legislature’s recent gridlock, Thursday’s speeches by Kelly and Edgmon didn’t seem to offer much hope.

Alaska House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, addresses the RDC on Thursday. In the middle is Eric Fjelstad, an attorney at Perkins Coie LLP and an RDC board member. Senate President Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, is on the right. (Nathaniel Herz / ADN)

“I’m a compromiser,” said Harry McDonald, an executive at shipping company Saltchuk. “But I think we probably have another stalemate coming.”

The major decisions facing the Legislature this year aren’t expected to differ much from the recent past: drafting the state’s multibillion-dollar annual budget and coming up with a long-term plan to pay for it.

Kelly, who leads the Senate’s Republican majority, and Edgmon, who leads the largely Democratic House majority, laid out different visions — both of the way state government is working and of how lawmakers should tackle the deficit. Edgmon described state government, down to 24,100 employees in September from 26,900 in 2014, as “getting strapped” — to the point that development projects needing government approvals are at risk of being stalled.

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Beneath the “posturing” that audience members heard Thursday, there’s actually a fair amount of agreement between the House and Senate majorities, according to Anchorage Rep. Jennifer Johnston, a member of the House Republican minority.

Both sides agree that lawmakers will need to spend some of the Permanent Fund’s investment earnings on government services, she said. And they agreed last year on major changes to the state’s system of paying cash subsidies to small oil and gas companies, she added.

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