"I was pleased to the see the minority take this step, I see it as a gesture of good faith and an indication that they are accepting the offer I made in December to foster a more cooperative working relationship."
- Sen Therriault
(Juneau) - In a bipartisan effort to address the consequences of a lack of three-quarters vote on the Constitutional Budget Reserve at the end of last session, Sen. Gene Therriault (R-North Pole) signed on as co-sponsor of legislation introduced Wednesday by Sen. Lyman Hoffman (D-Bethel).
"I was pleased to the see the minority take this step," Therriault said. "I see it as a gesture of good faith and an indication that they are accepting the offer I made in December to foster a more cooperative working relationship."
"With negotiations starting as late as they did last year, we were unable to reach an agreement," Hoffman said. "If we had had more time I feel comfortable that the reverse sweep would have been taken care of."
Senate Bill 283 restores money that was transferred into the Constitutional Budget Reserve on June 30, 2003, under a constitutional provision requiring that sub-accounts of the general fund be "swept" into the Budget Reserve at the end of each fiscal year.
Voters created the Constitutional Budget Reserve in 1990 to hold money the state collected from settlements of oil company royalty and tax disputes. In most years since, the Legislature has drawn on the fund to bridge the gap between revenues and spending, and reverses the effects of the sweep with an appropriation from the reserve with a three-quarters vote.
Last year, however, the Legislature made the reserve appropriation with a simple majority vote under a provision that allows them to do so when the money available for appropriation is less than the amount appropriated the year before. But funds to reverse the sweep were not available without the support of the minority.
"We still have lots of political differences, but we need to come together in areas like this," Therriault said.
Senators Lyda Green (R-Wasilla), Ben Stevens (R-Anchorage), Kim Elton (D-Juneau) and Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage) also signed on as co-sponsors. Representatives Eric Croft (D-Anchorage) and John Harris (R-Valdez) introduced a companion bill, House Bill 413.
Because Senate Bill 283 appropriates money under Article IX, section 17(c) of the Alaska State Constitution, it will take a three-quarters vote of both houses to pass.
Therriault said he expects the bill to be heard in the Senate Finance Committee next week. He said he will advocate amending the bill to include $125,000 to pay for the reserve fund's investment management fees.