JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Alaska Gov. Bill Walker pitched a proposal Monday aimed at breaking a legislative impasse over the budget, imploring legislators to compromise to avert a potential government shutdown.
It got a cool response from the speaker of the Alaska House, who said the plan does not go far enough.
Walker’s plan includes a tax on wage-earners of up to $500 annually that could be used for school maintenance and construction. It also would end cashable credits for oil and gas companies.
It would require the House majority coalition, which is composed largely of Democrats, to give up on increasing taxes on the oil industry when prices are between $50 and $100 a barrel and the Republican-led Senate to abandon deeper cuts to education and the university system.
Walker’s office said the proposal also calls for the Senate version of a plan to use earnings from Alaska’s oil-wealth fund to help pay for government. The Senate bill would pay Alaskans a lower initial dividend than the House bill - $1,000 compared to at least $1,250.
“This session cannot be determined by whose caucus won, otherwise all Alaskans will lose,” Walker said in a release. “We must pull together to end the uncertainty that hangs over classrooms, families and our future.”
Lawmakers are more than halfway through a 30-day special session that so far has been marred by finger-pointing and entrenchment.
House Speaker Bryce Edgmon told reporters late Monday that Walker’s proposal falls short of what his coalition has been working on.
The Dillingham Democrat said negotiations toward resolving the budget and a plan to address the state’s deficit must continue. But he said he believes his caucus will continue to hold firm in what it sees as the best path forward.
The Senate majority declined immediate comment on Walker’s plan.
The new fiscal year starts July 1.
Alaska, which has long relied on oil revenue, has been grappling with a multibillion-dollar deficit amid low oil prices. There’s general agreement on using Alaska Permanent Fund earnings but divisions exist over what else is needed as part of a fiscal plan.
The House majority has pushed for a broad-based tax and an overhaul of oil tax and credit policies as part of a plan. The Senate has proposed limits on future spending and rejected a House-passed income tax.
The tax bill pitched by Walker was introduced earlier this year by Fairbanks Republican Sen. Click Bishop. The tax, which would be based on what a person earns, would range from $50 a year to $500 a year.
Walker said that if the package he pitched were enacted, it would leave a $300 million deficit.
Edgmon said that any deficits projected at this point are based on a number of assumptions.
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