Budget Standoff Sends Alaska Legislature Into Overtime

April 20, 2015

An end-of-session baby and a marathon series of confirmation votes on Gov. Bill Walker’s political appointees helped propel the Alaska Legislature into overtime Sunday, as the House and Senate were certain to miss the scheduled end of their 90-day session at midnight.

Both chambers left the Capitol on Sunday evening with a final budget deal still pending. House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski, had been unable so far to negotiate a package acceptable to Senate Republicans and the House minority Democratic caucus.

The House Democrats’ approval is needed to clear a three-quarters vote threshold in each chamber of the Legislature required by the Alaska Constitution to tap a state savings account called the Constitutional Budget Reserve.

Chenault said the Democrats were negotiating in good faith but discussions were complicated by the arrival early Sunday of 7-pound-9-ounce Penelope Grace Tuck -- the daughter of House Minority Leader Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, the Democratic negotiator.

Tuck flew to Anchorage from Juneau on Sunday morning to visit his new baby and partner, conservative talk radio host Bernadette Wilson. He had planned to return to Juneau on an afternoon flight but missed it and didn’t arrive back to the Capitol until the evening. That set back negotiations on the Legislature’s adjournment package -- though nobody blamed him.

“He did what I would have done,” Chenault said.

After the confirmation votes took more than five hours to complete, Chenault resumed discussions over the budget package with his Republican counterparts in the Senate, with legislators expected to return to the Capitol on Monday morning for further negotiations and possible votes.

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