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Alaska budget negotiators hope to reach tentative deal soon

June 13, 2021 GMT

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska legislators who are leading negotiators on a committee tasked with hashing out differences on a state spending package said they would like to reach a tentative agreement as early as Sunday.

Whether that happens remains to be seen. The six-member conference committee, comprised of House and Senate negotiators, met Saturday and has scheduled a meeting for Sunday morning.

Outstanding issues included decisions on spending federal recovery aid dollars and the size of the dividend to pay residents this year, said Rep. Neal Foster and Sen. Bert Stedman, leading conference committee members. The dividends typically are paid from the earnings of the nest-egg Alaska Permanent Fund.

Any package that advances from the conference committee would have to be voted on by the full House and Senate. Both chambers have late-afternoon floor sessions scheduled for Monday.

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Lawmakers have until Friday to complete their work in the current special session, called by Gov. Mike Dunleavy in part to finish work on the budget.

Dunleavy also placed on the agenda his proposal to restructure the permanent fund and put a new dividend formula in the state constitution. But that appears to have little momentum right now, with a number of lawmakers pushing back against the assumptions underpinning the proposal or preferring to evaluate a potential long-term change to the dividend program as part of a fuller possible fiscal plan.

A second special session has been scheduled for August.