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State Senate Approves Operating Budget Along Party Lines

By Steve Mac Donald, Special Projects Manager and Host of "The 49th Report" and "One Alaska", stevem@ktuu.com
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.

ANCHORAGE -

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.