Lawmakers pan governor’s tax proposals

Rep. Dan Saddler, March 11, 2016.
Rep. Dan Saddler, R-Eagle River, discusses the state operating budget on the floor the House of Representatives, March 11, 2016. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

In the debate over how to close Alaska’s $3.8 billion budget hole, one potential solution hasn’t gotten much traction: finding new sources of revenue.

That was supposed to be a major focus of the special session happening now.

But in the first committee hearing this week, lawmakers panned Gov. Bill Walker’s plan to raise taxes on everything from fishing and mining to alcohol, tobacco, and motor fuel — never mind an income tax.

Walker originally introduced the taxes as separate bills, which went nowhere in the regular session. This time, he rolled them into a single bill.

But lawmakers weren’t thrilled with that approach, either.

Eagle River Republican Rep. Dan Saddler put the question to Revenue Commissioner Randy Hoffbeck.

“Did you think that ganging together seven different taxes would make it more likely or less likely that any would pass?” Saddler asked.

“Based on the success we had passing them as individual bills, it’s probably not less likely,” Hoffbeck replied, to laughter.

Meanwhile, both houses voted unanimously to resurrect several bills from last session, avoiding an alternative that would have forced them to start from scratch.

House Democrats did want to start over on one bill: the overhaul of oil and gas taxes.

That proposal was met with disbelief. Here’s Anchorage Republican Lance Pruitt:

“You’ve got to be kidding me … are we really having this discussion right now? That we’re going to start back over? Imagine how I’m going to talk about this to my constituents. They’re already not happy we couldn’t do our work in 90 days,” Pruitt said. “They’re unhappy that we couldn’t do it in 120 days….and we’re going to start over on one of the biggest, most controversial issues that we have? We’ve decided we’re going to start over on the biggest, most complex, most controversial — we’re funning with our constituents, right?”

That proposal was voted down.

At the end of the House session, Minority Leader Chris Tuck, an Anchorage Democrat, rose to address an issue close to the hearts of lawmakers and staff who find themselves more than 30 days past their original end date.

“I’d like to speak on the subject of hang in there,” Tuck said. “I know a lot of us are sick and tired, but hang in there, and we’ll get through it.”

Lawmakers have only two committee meetings scheduled for Wednesday, day three of the special session

Site notifications
Update notification options
Subscribe to notifications