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Alaska budget debate drags on in special session

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Debate over the state budget will extend into June, with Alaska lawmakers breaking for the holiday weekend and the biggest items, including the size of check to pay residents from the state’s oil-wealth fund, still to be decided.

Rep. Neal Foster, a lead negotiator on the budget conference committee, indicated the next meeting would be Tuesday at the earliest. Attendance at House and Senate floor sessions Friday was not mandatory.

The size of this year’s dividend is a major outstanding issue in budget talks. But lawmakers also are debating how much of the state’s share of federal recovery aid to allocate, and how. Plus, the Senate crammed its version of the capital budget into the spending package that includes funding for state government operations. The capital budget generally is considered separately.

The agenda for the current special session called by Gov. Mike Dunleavy includes the budget and his proposed constitutional amendment dealing with the nest-egg permanent fund and dividend. Leading lawmakers have sought to downplay any expectations of reaching agreement on a long-term dividend solution this special session.

Sen. Bert Stedman, another budget negotiator, raised questions about some of the administration’s modeling assumptions.

A second special session is set for August.

The Associated Press