- Associated Press - Thursday, June 9, 2016

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Gov. Bill Walker said Thursday that realistically he won’t get the comprehensive fiscal plan he had hoped for this year.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Walker said he is concerned about that but cannot force legislators to vote on issues they’re not ready to vote on.

“Do I want to have everything fixed this year? Absolutely. Should it be fixed this year, everything? Absolutely it should be,” he said. He could continue calling special sessions, he said, but cannot force action, noting the separation of powers.

“Whatever we don’t get, I will have to figure out a way forward on that,” the governor said.

For months, Walker has called for passage of a fiscal package to help pull the state out of its multibillion-dollar deficit over the next couple years. The centerpiece of his plan calls for structured annual draws from Alaska Permanent Fund earnings to help pay for state government. He also proposed various tax increases, oil and gas tax credit changes, and a personal income tax.

The Legislature passed a tax credit bill that Walker said needs further work but “did move the dial” on reforming the system. The Senate passed the permanent fund bill but it still must overcome concerns in the House.

Lawmakers have shown little interest in Walker’s tax bills, and the governor said he’s not sure what it’s going to take for that to change. His idea in proposing his tax package was to try to spread the burden for tackling the deficit as broadly as possible.

Senate President Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, said he thought Walker would be satisfied with what the Senate has done on tax credits and the permanent fund bill. Walker said the question is whether that’s enough for this year. He wants to see what happens with the permanent fund bill in the House.

Alaska, long dependent on oil revenues, faces a multibillion-dollar budget deficit amid low oil prices. As recently as last week, Walker was making a full-throated call for action on a fiscal plan this year.

Since then, he said he’s had meetings with legislators and came to the realization that he won’t get an entire package this year. He believes the upcoming elections have had an impact.

“As I look at upcoming bond rating issues, I look at the uncertainty we’re creating across the state - to continue on with just status quo and business as usual and draw into our savings account and ignore the reality, that’s tough for me to be aware of that and see that and trade that off because we’re facing an upcoming election cycle,” Walker said. “The cost of waiting is significant. But we’ll get all we can this year.”

He didn’t say whether he might get involved in this year’s legislative elections, saying he’s interested at this point in getting through the ongoing special session and “fixing Alaska.”

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