With only a day left and nowhere near the votes needed for an override, the possibility of a rebuke of Gov. Mike Dunleavy's more than $400 million in operating budget vetoes no longer exists, according to House Majority Leader Steve Thompson.
"That's dead. We don't have 45 people here. We went through the capital budget today and we don't have 45 people to override anything," Thompson, a Fairbanks Republican, told the Daily News-Miner Thursday afternoon.
Thompson noted that the "many areas of important funding" will be taken up in other funding forms such as the capital budget, supplemental budgets or even as part of the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend appropriation bill.
"Those items are going to have to be figured out in another bill, maybe the permanent fund dividend bill. But again, unless we have an agreement with the governor, he would just go in and re-veto. We have to start communicating," he said. "This funding is so important to every aspect of life in Alaska."
Thompson also noted the importance of addressing the Alaska Higher Education Investment Fund money that was swept back into the Constitutional Budget Reserve recently. Without money in the fund, state scholarships that had already been awarded to college students vanished.
House and Senate members gathered in a joint session Thursday morning in Juneau, but leaders adjourned the session without taking up the possibility of another override veto after only about two hours of discussion on the budget vetoes.
Regardless of the looming reminder of members who had chosen to meet in Wasilla instead of Juneau, Democrats and Republicans alike shared somber testimony and still urged support for an override. They called on their missing colleagues to return to Juneau from Wasilla, the site of a special session called by Dunleavy. Those in Juneau rejected the governor's authority to determine the location.
"Will we succeed? Will we make it? We're not going to make it today. But we have to make it," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, D-Anchorage. "Alaskans are counting on us to do the right thing. If we don't act collectively, if we don't get to the table together, if we don't resolve these issues, we will be taking a path that will be very, very difficult to get off of. We will be going in a direction that will not offer opportunity."
Thompson noted Thursday afternoon that "discussion [between the two sides] is finally going on".
"We're trying to do some compromising and I feel like we're making process," he said, though he declined to elaborate.
"This is something we have to do. There's so many important things coming up," Thompson said. "The capital budget, we've got to get it funded by the end of July in order to get about a billion dollars in federal matching grants. That's huge. So we're going to be meeting a lot; unfortunately that means my summer is gone, but that's how it goes."
Thompson noted that House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, and Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, have been participating in daily phone calls with the governor in an attempt to make some headway.
In Wasilla, a reported five or so lawmakers met in the Wasilla Middle School gym for a quick technical session but without a quorum were unable to take any official legislative action.
Palmer Republican Sen. Shelley Hughes, one of the 22 legislators who is not in Juneau, told reporters in Wasilla Thursday morning that she had no plans to vote for a full override of all 182 line-item vetoes but that there might be a few she would consider looking into such as the Senior Benefits program, which Dunleavy eliminated.
Progress will likely be somewhat gradual for the time being, Thompson noted, adding that the House Finance Committee does intend to meet in Anchorage at the beginning of next week.
But until compromises can be made among the divided Legislature and with the governor, the result of Dunleavy's vetoes will stand and many will cause immediate damage, Thompson noted.
"They already have taken effect, some of them," he said. "The Senior Benefits, they've already lost one payment from that."
Thompson added that any funding resolutions likely couldn't be retroactive, meaning the funding lost between now and any possible budgetary resolutions would probably be lost for good.
"I don't know how we would handle that," he said. "There are so many different aspects of the effects already from the cuts the governor did."
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.