JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska House failed to get sufficient support Wednesday to fully fund legislation that includes additional aid to help the state respond to coronavirus concerns.
Provisions of the bill called for using the constitutional budget reserve to help cover costs and preventing various state accounts from being swept into the fund. For those to pass, three-fourths support was needed in each the House and Senate.
The Senate met that threshold earlier in the day. The House needed at least 30 votes; it fell two votes shy, with two members excused.
The so-called three-quarter vote is sometimes used as leverage by minority members for future negotiations. Rep. Mark Neuman, a Big Lake Republican, said he felt as though a yes vote would take that negotiating tool away. Decisions on additional spending packages and the size of Permanent Fund dividend to pay residents are among the still-unsettled issues.
Some House members spoke of an urgency to pass and fund the bill. Rep. Adam Wool, a Fairbanks Democrat, said many lawmakers want to get home.
The pace of work at the Capitol has appeared quicker amid concerns with the coronavirus. The Legislature has restricted access to the building as it continues to do its work.
The bill voted on Wednesday includes supplemental spending for such things as Medicaid, the state ferry system and firefighting costs.
It also has $15 million in state funds for public health emergency programs aimed at the coronavirus, and it would allocate $8.5 million in cruise ship funds as grants to communities visited by ships to respond to and mitigate the risk of COVID-19.
The Legislature previously approved about $4.1 million in state funds, and authorized the receipt of federal funds to help respond to the virus.
The bill also includes $150,000 for the Alaska Municipal League to assist with implementation of the Real ID program in rural Alaska. Real IDs are special licenses many people nationwide will need to board domestic flights and enter some federal facilities as of Oct. 1.
Lawmakers last year approved drawing up to $250 million from the constitutional budget reserve to help cover costs in case the budget they passed left holes. The amount remaining under that authorization is insufficient to fully cover expenses in the measure voted on Wednesday, lawmakers said.