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State Senate Approves Operating Budget Along Party Lines

Published On: Apr 07 2014 10:38:46 PM AKDT   Updated On: Apr 07 2014 11:02:32 PM AKDT

After several hours of debate and numerous attempts to change its makeup, the Alaska Senate approved the state operating budget Monday afternoon.


After several hours of debate and numerous attempts to change the state operating budget's makeup, the Alaska Senate approved a $6.7 billion measure Monday afternoon.

As soon as the spending plan landed on the Senate floor, minority Democrats pounced, offering more than a dozen amendments offered by to either add or cut funds from the operating budget -- but each time, majority Republicans stood their ground.

With each vote along party lines, the amendments went down to defeat one by one. There was even a rare moment when Democrats sided with Gov. Sean Parnell.

"The senator from West Anchorage spoke about the opportunity to agree with the governor, and I was going to say the same thing," said Sen. Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage).

Gardner’s comment came during an attempt to pump $3 billion into the public workers and teachers retirement funds -- a move Parnell championed -- but even invoking the governor's name didn't help, with an amendment shot down by a 15-5 vote against it.

Democrats also tried in vain to cut spending. They called for a nearly $1 million cut in funding for the embattled Knik Arm bridge project.

"For us to go ahead and put ourselves on the noose, for a project that has evolved over the 14 years I've been here, with questionable numbers, numbers that can't be substantiated,” said Sen. Donny Olson (D-Golovin). “I say let's take the brakes and put it hold and take a look at this -- because right now, I see us heading down into a dark, dark morass of financial crisis.”
Republicans, however, argued that a new funding plan may improve the project’s chances.

“Frankly, Mr. President, I think it’s this government’s job,” said Sen. Kevin Meyer (R-Anchorage). “This is our responsibility, this is our role -- to build infrastructure.”

Despite the lengthy debate, the Senate voted to approve the operating budget -- again dividing more or less along party lines.