From Sean Cockerham in Anchorage –
Nerves are frayed at the legislative special session hearing in Anchorage, as the House Finance Committee discusses energy projects in the capital budget that’s at the heart of the deadlock.
The Senate won’t pass the budget to the House because House members won’t agree to language saying if Gov. Sean Parnell vetoes a single energy project, then none of the projects are funded.
Eagle River Republican Rep. Anna Fairclough said each project should stand on its own but the Senate language forces them to all live or die together.
“The real issue is the process now links $460 million worth of projects together. That is unacceptable,” she said.
Anchorage Democratic Rep. Les Gara defended the Senate. Gara said that Senators put in the disputed language to protect the projects. He said the Senate had a “legitimate fear” after the governor said he would veto projects if the Legislature didn’t agree to his bill to cut oil taxes.
Chugiak Republican Rep. Bill Stoltze testily responded that oil taxes are not part of the special session.
“Have you heard of the bicameral process Mr. Gara? ... Maybe you should run for the Senate,” he said.
Gara said the House, Senate and governor need to work together and decide which of the energy projects should be included in the budget.
“We’re never going to get out of this special session unless we all sit down together and decide which of these projects we’re going to fund," he said.
House Republicans said the projects inserted by the Senate might be good, but they don’t know enough about some of them to be comfortable. Gara said in a break in the meeting that if the House Finance Committee doesn’t think it knows enough about the projects, it should have been holding some meetings in the past two weeks.
Bringing the special session hearing to Anchorage from Juneau hasn’t brought out average citizens to watch. The Legislative Information Office hearing room on West Fourth Avenue seems mostly filled up with bureaucrats and press.