The halls of the State Capitol were empty Monday, March 30, 2020, as most lawmakers and their staff have returned to their home districts. The Legislature is recessed rather than adjourned, which means they can be called back to take action is necessary. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

The halls of the State Capitol were empty Monday, March 30, 2020, as most lawmakers and their staff have returned to their home districts. The Legislature is recessed rather than adjourned, which means they can be called back to take action is necessary. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

The budget is passed and lawmakers have gone home

Money from feds is coming, but amount and where it will go are unknown

The Alaska Legislature passed a budget bill with more than $4.5 billion in spending from state funds in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Included in the bill were funds to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, with $75 million going to the Department of Health and Social Services.

The Legislature has gone into recess, and many lawmakers have left Juneau. The plan now is to wait.

[Legislature approves budget, PFD]

Lawmakers sent a number of bills to the governor’s desk as they rushed to get as much done as possible before going into recess. It’s now up to Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Alaska’s congressional delegation to see what the state needs.

“A lot of it’s going to be watching, trying to see what the federal government gave us and if there are gaps in the federal law,” said Daniel McDonald, communications director for the Senate Majority Caucus, referring to the $2 trillion stimulus package recently approved by Congress.

Lawmakers would be working with the Dunleavy administration and the delegation to see what the state can do that’s not covered by the federal government. The Legislature is currently recessed, rather than adjourned, which means they can come back to Juneau quickly if extra legislation is passed. The recess lasts until the end of May, when the regular session would have ended.

“A lot of Alaskans are worried about the coming weeks. We’re all just focused on directing people to the proper services that they can use to get help,” McDonald said.

On Saturday, lawmakers also passed an emergency relief bill that provided protections for people who may be struggling with the economic fallout caused by the pandemic.

The bill, which has yet to be signed by Dunleavy, would prevent tenants from being evicted due to an inability to pay and prevents utilities from cutting off services to delinquent bill payers.

The budget bill was not universally loved.

It allocated a Permanent Fund Dividend of $1,000, and removed the additional $1,000 approved by the Senate that would have been sent out in the coming weeks. That raised the ire of some House Republicans who felt that including the COVID-19 funding in the same bill as the PFD forced them to vote against their will.

“Using the $75 million COVID response money as a leverage point is shameful,” Rep Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, said in a release. “That money is intended to be used for venues like the Alaska Airline’s Center as triage facilities.”

In a statement, the House Republican Minority said COVID-19 funding was “held hostage” by the Majority when they placed it within the budget bill.

“Until yesterday, this was just a budget,” House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, said in a statement, referring to the Senate’s addition of emergency funding into the budget bill.

“For the first time, I was embarrassed to be a member of this body,” Pruitt said. “We could have solved this with conversations, we could have listened to others’ concerns.”

The governor too, expressed frustration with the final bill, questioning why lawmakers chose to remove the $1,000 stimulus check.

[Dunleavy announces economic stimulus plan]

Dunleavy still has to sign the bills sent to him by the Legislature, and he has the ability to veto certain items from the bill.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.

Photo by Peter Segall | Juneau Empire 
                                The halls of the State Capitol were empty Monday, March 30, as most lawmakers and their staff have returned to their home districts. The Legislature is recessed rather than adjourned, which means they can be called back to take action is necessary.

Photo by Peter Segall | Juneau Empire The halls of the State Capitol were empty Monday, March 30, as most lawmakers and their staff have returned to their home districts. The Legislature is recessed rather than adjourned, which means they can be called back to take action is necessary.

More in News

Commercial fishing boats are rafted together in May 2016 in the harbor in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Armstrong/Homer News)
States expands small business grants

The AK CARES Grant program is being modified in response to calls for changes.

Alaska Army National Guard soldiers use a CH-47 Chinook helicopter to remove an abandoned bus, popularized by the book and movie “Into the Wild,” out of its location in the Alaska backcountry. The state Department of Natural Resources said Thursday, July 30, that it intends to negotiate with the University of Alaska’s Museum of the North in Fairbanks to display the bus. (Sgt. Seth LaCount/Alaska National Guard via AP, File)
‘Into the Wild’ bus likely lands a new home

An infamous bus appears headed to a new home at a museum.

Homer Farmers Market: Farmers create diverse local food system

I had an inspiring conversation recently with Carolina Behe of the Inuit… Continue reading

Painted signs posted at the candlelight vigil held for Anesha “Duffy” Murnane on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2020, at WKFL Park in Homer, Alaska, affirm love for Murnane and beseech her safe return. (Photo by Delcenia Cosman)
Virtual birthday party to be held for missing Homer woman

A virtual birthday party is being held to honor a Homer woman… Continue reading

Homer City Hall. (Homer News file photo)
City council to vote on additional grant programs

The Homer City Council tweaked its program for relief grants for small… Continue reading

Homer City Hall. (Homer News file photo)
Filing period opens for Homer City Council, Mayor seats

The filing period for the local municipal election has opened, and interested… Continue reading

Rep. Gary Knopp is seen in this undated photo. (Photo courtesy Jayme Jones)
Lawmakers remember colleague killed in crash

State Rep. Gary Knopp, who represented Kenai-Soldotna area, was one of seven people killed Friday.

Sarah Vance poses for a photo on June 12, 2020, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Hannah Vance)
Sarah Vance runs for 2nd House of Representatives term

Rep. Sarah Vance (R-Homer) is making a run at a second term… Continue reading

Image via Kenai Peninsula Borough School District
KPBSD to require face coverings; Board OKs raise for school nurses

The increase in pay is set to expire at the end of 2020-2021 school year.

Most Read