Alaska House passes early school budget bill, but leaves the funding out

Rep. Paul Seaton, R- Homer, during deliberations on HB 111, an oil tax bill, April 10, 2017. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, speaks on the House floor in April 2017. On Wednesday, he spoke in support of drawing money from the Constitutional Budget Reserve to fund schools earlier than usual. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

The Alaska House passed a bill Wednesday that’s aimed at providing most of the funding for school budgets separately and earlier than the main state budget.

It’s intended to prevent widespread layoff notices to teachers that have been caused by the Legislature passing budgets late the last three years.

But the House rejected the part of House Bill 287 that would use state savings to fund it.

It’s not clear whether the Senate will pass the bill – and if it does, how it would propose to pay for it.

Homer Rep. Paul Seaton is a Republican who caucuses with the mostly Democratic majority.

He noted that passing the bill without drawing from savings leaves it unfunded.

“I think that every person on this floor has good intentions,” Seaton said. “However, I think that in 2015, we had good intentions. In 2016, we had good intentions. And in 2017, we had good intentions. And in all of those years, we were sending out pink slips.”

Anchorage minority caucus Republican Rep. Jennifer Johnston said the school money should come from the same account as the rest of the budget.

“I would say it’s the right move, the right time and the wrong funding source,” she said.

The House and Senate majorities differ on the source of savings to be used to fund the full state budget.

The House majority wants to draw as much as possible from the Constitutional Budget Reserve, the same account that’s covered spending gaps in other years.

The Republican-led Senate majority wants to draw more from Alaska Permanent Fund earnings.

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