Senate advances 'turducken' budget, House passes VPSO reform bill
Debates about equity in public safety continue with Republicans griping about the state's funding of rural Village Public Safety Officers.
Good evening, Alaska!
In this edition: The Senate is advancing its omnibus budget over protests that it cuts out serious input on the shape of state funding just in time for there actually being money to spend; and The House passes a much-needed reform package for the Village Public Safety Officer program but not before some pretty ugly debate.
Legislative day: 108
Senate advances turducken budget over protests
The Senate is pushing ahead with an omnibus budget package that rolls the capital budget into the operating budget already passed by the House. The move effectively cuts the House out of the decision-making process on the capital budget barring any behind-the-scenes negotiations with the Senate, a move that’s probably not all that appreciated given the state has money for the first time in a long time. After all capital spending goes a long way to patching over political differences and securing votes in the final days of the legislative session. Not everyone in the Senate is a fan of the approach, either, which resulted in an objection today to even adopting the Senate Finance Committee’s version of the budget as the working version moving forward.
The objection was registered by Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin, who argued that the process unnecessarily and unfairly limits input on the legislation, highlighting the legislation’s lack of matching funds to secure the $250 million in federal funds for the proposed Arctic port in Nome. Olson, who is the only legislator who’s not up for reelection this year, said he’s concerned that his region and the state will miss out on the federal funds if they put it off for a year when things could change considerably with an election year where every other legislator, the governor and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who was instrumental in securing the funding, will be up on the ballot.
Several far-right Republican senators also supported Olson’s objection, arguing that this process is overly complicated, limits opportunities to alter the budget and forces them to vote for an all-or-nothing budget (which, frankly, isn’t all that different). The fracture in the Republican majority is nothing new but it highlights the ongoing difficulty of trying to govern and get things done when you don’t really control the numbers needed to pass anything.
Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, defended the process, arguing that there’s still been public testimony opportunities for the measure. As for Nome’s Arctic port, Stedman said the issue hasn’t been settled.
“We’re still working on that because this bill is not done yet,” Stedman said of legislation that could pass at the next floor session.