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    The Week in Public Finance: Special Sessions, Chicago's Pension Deal and a Historically Giant Tax Break

    A roundup of money (and other) news governments can use.
    BY  MAY 27, 2016

    Special Session Begins in Alaska

    After failing to agree on a budget for the 2017 fiscal year, Alaskan legislators met this week to begin a special session. The state is one of a handful that has yet to pass a budget for the upcoming year, which starts in five weeks for most. But Alaska is arguably in the toughest position.

    Lawmakers extended their regularly scheduled session but still failed to decide how or whether to enact fiscal reforms that would close its structural budget deficit. According to Standard & Poor’s, the continued “impasse risks a government shutdown starting on July 1 when the state's new fiscal year begins.”

    The cause of Alaska’s woes is simple: The prolonged drop in oil prices has hammered its budget, which largely relies on oil revenue. To meet expenses, the state has drawn out of its substantial rainy day fund over the past two years. As a result, its top AAA credit rating was stripped away in January.

    The solutions, however, are not so simple. Gov. Bill Walker wants to completely revamp Alaska’s revenue system, which includes implementing the state’s first income tax in more than three decades and significantly reducing the annual stipends that residents receive from oil revenue. Instead Walker wants to funnel more of that revenue into a new state investment fund to support the budget. Still, legislators disagree about how many -- if any -- of those proposals to adopt, and many still want to tap into the state's rainy day fund again to balance the budget.

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