- Associated Press - Monday, April 17, 2017

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - A Wasilla Republican who left the Alaska Senate’s majority caucus over concerns that not enough was being done to curb state spending still could play a role in how the budget ultimately looks.

Sen. Mike Dunleavy’s departure from the Republican-led caucus left it with 14 members.

That could become an issue if the constitutional budget reserve is needed to help cover state expenses. Such a move requires support of at least 15 of the Senate’s 20 members and 30 of the House’s 40 members.

Voters in 1990 approved amending the constitution to create a reserve fund that is tougher for legislators to access, requiring three-fourths of each chamber to do so.

Dunleavy voted with the majority to tap the reserve during an initial vote earlier this month, in keeping, he said, with a commitment he had made to the caucus.

Senate President Pete Kelly said he anticipated that Dunleavy would vote the same way if the issue came up again.

But Dunleavy said it’s now a “different ballgame,” and his constituents will be foremost in his decision-making.

House and Senate negotiators will be tasked with reconciling differences in the versions of the budget passed by each chamber.

Should use of the reserve be needed, the House majority will need to pick up support from minority Republicans, who also want to limit spending.

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