Kodiak Senator Gary Stevens is taking a few days to visit communities in his district while the House and Senate Conference Committee continues to hammer out differences in the state budget. He visited Homer earlier this week and will be in Cordova over the weekend.
While here in Kodiak, he was optimistic that the conferees will get the job done.
“You know I think – I just want to tell people to just be patient. This is going to be solved. It’ll happen. It’ll probably take two more weeks. We’ve been through this. I’ve been through this now for 15 sessions and I know how it works,” Stevens said. “This is the worst one, because this is the worst financial situation we’ve been in, you know, with $7-billion to $8-billion in under-funding. So hang on, we’ll find a way to do this.”
And for those frustrated or worried about their jobs or state services they depend on, he has this to say:
“Now I know people are a little upset. And they’re reading in the newspaper here locally that says the ferry’s going to stop running and the airport’s going to close. Well of course none of that’s going to happen. No one is going to let that happen,” he said. “We are not going to close down government at the end of this month.”
In urging the Legislature to finish the people’s business, Governor Bill Walker has chided the senators and representatives for holding up the budget for what amounts to just about one-half of one percent of the total spending bill.
“Well, the governor is right. And I think he’s done a great job so far, and he’s absolutely right. We need to just move beyond this. But we’ve got time,” Stevens said. “We’ve got egos involved in both the House and the Senate leadership and each is trying to get the best advantage they can. I think in the end it’ll probably be a compromise as it always is. And it’s truly not very much money.”
When Walker called the Legislature into a special session, he directed them to address the budget, as well as Medicaid expansion and to pass Erin’s Law, which would mandate the teaching of sexual abuse awareness in all grades. While Medicaid is off the table in the current special session called by the Legislature itself, Erin’s Law was included. It went through a number of changes as it passed through committees, but Stevens is confident that it will be passed soon.
“It looks good. It looks pretty good. Now that it is in Senate Finance they are talking about it, they are working on a committee substitute, which as I understand it would go back pretty much to the original bill,” he said. “There are some other things they may add into it. And some of them I like, some I don’t like. We’ll so that turns out.”
KMXT had a wide-ranging conversation with Senator Stevens, and you can hear all of it on Tuesday during Talk of the Rock.