Stedman Bars Door, Wraps Up Budget

By SHANNON HAUGLAND

Sentinel Staff Writer

Sen. Bert Stedman expressed confidence that the compromise budget bill he ushered through negotiations Tuesday will be passed by the Legislature today.

“I think it’s a good compromise budget,” he said. “The savings is not as high as I would’ve liked. But sometimes you have the votes, sometimes you don’t.”

The proposed capital and operating budget has funds set aside for a permanent fund dividend as high as $3,800. The range is between $3,200 and $3,800 with the final payout depending on the number of applications received, and whether the Legislature has the three-quarters vote needed to use the constitutional budget reserve for the higher amount.

Stedman said his choice would be a lower payout and putting more money into savings, but in general he was pleased with the compromise and the process that went into it.

“We’re working through the process,” he said. “Clearly we have improved the position in conference committee in what came off the floor of the Senate.”

He was referring to the Senate-approved plan for a $5,500 payout, based on expectations of a $100 per barrel price for Alaska oil. That plan was rejected by the House.
The Senate finance committee’s budget was based on an $85 price for oil, and the proposed compromise in the House-Senate conference committee is based on $90 per barrel.

“The important point when we look at the dividend is it’s a total, it’s all of them,” Stedman said. The cost difference between the $3,200 and $3,800 (dividend) is between $2.1 billion and $2.5 billion.

The vote today was to be on adopting the conference committee report, which must occur before midnight or the bill dies, Stedman said.

Another part of the committee report up for the vote today is adding $394 million in higher education scholarship money back into the fund, funds that were “swept” earlier in the year. Stedman said that will mean funds for the WWAMI medical school program and the state’s university scholars program.

He said Tuesday had been an exciting and unusual day, in which at two points he barricaded or locked the door to his office and the Senate finance committee room when members were called for House and Senate votes, so the group could finish up its work.

Stedman, a Republican, represents Sitka, Ketchikan and other parts of Southeast and co-chairs the senate finance committee, in charge of the operations side.

Stedman was meeting in his office with two other Senators and three House members to negotiate the details of the compromise. They were almost done when the Senate members were called to a vote on the Senate floor. The sergeant-at-arms knocked on the door, and found it was locked,

“We just had five or seven minutes more to complete our tasks,” Stedman said. Staff members said after they asked for more time, the sergeant-at-arms called security, and Senate President Pete Micciche showed up as the sergeant-at-arms forced the door open. Stedman said the conference committee had finished its work by then, and he joined the other senators returning to the Senate chamber.

Later in the day as the same conference committee was taking formal action in Senate finance chambers to approve the report, House members were called to a vote in the House. Stedman asked his staff member Pete Ecklund to bar the door so the group could finish in time for the deadline.

The House decided to excuse the three House conference committee members, and to call the vote again, without them. In the meantime the conference committee finished its work on the $15 billion compromise appropriation operating and capital project bill.

Stedman said despite the one day of drama, work on resolving differences has been a continuous negotiations process since the day the budget was proposed.

“We had to compromise on numerous issues, 70 pages of differences with numerous differences on every page, in every process,” he said. “It’s not a one day process. It’s an accumulation of three months of work.”

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AK COVID-19

At a Glance

(updated 11-29-22)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 12:15 pm Tuesday, November 29.

New cases as of Tuesday: 414

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 286,561

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,399

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 4,195

Case Rate per 100,000 – 56.8

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 70.40

Cases in last 7 days – 6

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,173

Hospitalizations (to date) – 31

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.

 

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20 YEARS AGO

December 2002

 Alaska Native Sisterhood will hold a Christmas bazaar Dec. 7 at the ANB Hall. Isabella’s famous clam chowder and fry bread also will be for sale.

 

50 YEARS AGO

December 1972

Photo caption: Presbyterian women of today wear costumes from 1877-1899 at Sunday’s service. From left are Alice Postell, Dorothy Streit, Gladys Whitmore, Carrie Maura, Harriet Hannigan, Eugenie Williams, Esther Littlefield, Isabel Miller, Marilyn Ryan, Esther Billman, Beverly Scholz, Gertie Zeiger, Marcia Strand and Betty Stratton. (Photo by Martin Strand)

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