Alaska lawmakers have reached a tentative deal to pass the delayed state capital budget, and House members are being encouraged to plan their return to Juneau for a new special session, according to a key House legislator.
"There's an agreement among the House and the Senate that this is something we can both live with," said Homer Rep. Paul Seaton, one of three Republicans in the largely Democratic House majority.
House majority members are being encouraged to return to Juneau for their third special session of the year, which will start July 27 pending a two-thirds majority vote of the 60 legislators in the House and Senate, according to an email sent to lawmakers Wednesday by an aide to House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, and obtained by Alaska Dispatch News.
That two-thirds vote is constitutionally required for lawmakers to convene themselves in a third special session, which would come after two previous special sessions called by Gov. Bill Walker.
[Alaska Gov. Walker says he wants more progress in negotiations before he'll call lawmakers back to work]
Seaton wouldn't describe the details of the agreement between legislative leaders — he said they would be available once lawmakers arrive back in Juneau, or just before. He said the compromise's primary negotiators were Nome Democratic Rep. Neal Foster and Eagle River Republican Sen. Anna MacKinnon.
MacKinnon didn't respond to requests for comment Wednesday.
Lawmakers almost always pass the state capital budget before the July 1 start of the fiscal year, along with the state operating budget. But this year, disagreements over a plan to reduce the state's $2.5 billion deficit have delayed the capital budget, which typically appropriates cash for road construction and other projects.
Capital budgets have been sharply lower for the last few years than they were when the state was flush with oil money. But federal highway money almost always requires state matching funds. Without spending some state money, many more dollars from the federal government would be lost.
Key areas of disagreement between the House majority and the Republican-led Senate majority are how much money the capital budget should set aside for cash incentive payments to oil companies, and whether to use the legislation to increase the $1,100 already set aside for Alaskans' dividend payments.