- Associated Press - Monday, April 10, 2017

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - A state House committee is seeking to force the Senate into acting on a fiscal plan that includes more than tapping Alaska oil-wealth fund earnings to help close the state’s deficit.

The House Finance Committee has added to oil-wealth fund legislation language stating it would only take effect if the Legislature this year enacts two additional measures. They include a broad-based tax, which would be used to help fund education and capable of generating at least $650 million a year once fully implemented, and the version of an oil tax and credit bill that passes the House.

During a hearing Monday, committee co-chair Paul Seaton said the language shows the House majority’s commitment to a full fiscal plan. Seaton is one of three Republicans in a majority coalition composed largely of Democrats.

But Rep. Lance Pruitt, an Anchorage Republican, characterized it as a brazen attempt to hold the Senate hostage.

“Dangerous, dangerous,” Pruitt said. “I’m just totally amazed that I’m actually reading this in here.”

Senate leaders have urged House approval of structured draws from Alaska Permanent Fund earnings to help pay for government as a large step toward addressing the deficit. But they’ve shown little interest in taxes and have favored instead ongoing budget cuts.

House majority leaders say a permanent fund bill is not enough. They have balked at some of the deeper cuts - to areas like education and the University of Alaska system - that the Senate has proposed.

The conditional language was added to a rewrite of the permanent fund bill previously passed by the Senate. The bill is subject to further change, with amendments yet to be considered.

Anytime one chamber makes changes to a bill passed by another and those changes aren’t agreed to, a conference committee of House and Senate negotiators is assigned to hash out the differences.

The House pushed ahead on one piece of its majority’s fiscal plan Monday: approval of an oil tax and credit overhaul.

The overhaul, which passed 21-19, would, according to a Department of Revenue analysis, eliminate cashable tax credits for the North Slope and result in a tax increase at oil prices between about $50 and $100 per barrel.

Supporters of the change argue that the current credit structure is unaffordable. But critics say the bill is too expansive in its reach, and they fear it will hurt the oil industry.

Notice of reconsideration was given, meaning the bill may be voted on again before going to the Senate.

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