In an unusual move, Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy took to a prepared video statement to announce his actions on the latest budget the Legislature sent him to pay a dividend and restore most of the items he vetoed from the budget in late June.
The 10-minute video made almost no mention of the items that he would spare from a second veto or the items that would be struck down for a second time. Instead, he spent most of the video explaining why he had retreated from his hard-line position of demanding a $3,000 PFD and why he would instead be signing off on the $1,600 PFD the Legislature had sent him.
“If I had the authority to add more money to the budget for a full PFD, I would. However, only the Legislature by constitution can appropriate these funds. The Legislature has once again denied the people of Alaska the full statutory PFD. Many have asked me to veto this incomplete $1,600 PFD passed by the Legislature this year. Others have asked me to accept this partial dividend and continue our fight for a full PFD,” he said. “While this decision was not easy—not easy at all—I have decided that I will not veto this incomplete dividend.”
Because the video was recorded ahead of time, there was no opportunity for reporters to ask questions of the governor. Many reporters pointed this out on Twitter, noting that they were told that they could ask questions through the governor’s spokesman and hope for a timely response.
However, with the likely onslaught of requests from the numerous government reporters across the state, this doesn’t necessarily guarantee answers by deadline and also denies reporters the ability to ask questions directly of the governor #AKleg
— Erin McGroarty (@FDNMPolitics) August 19, 2019
The governor did offer some additional details about his position when it comes to the dividend.
Dunleavy said he plans on calling a third special session later this year to attempt to force the Legislature into passing an additional $1,400 payment for the PFD, calling the current payment “incomplete.” Legislative leadership has already requested such a special session but has argued that it should come with a discussion about the future of the payouts.
Whether or not such a payment is approved, it would almost certainly be delivered sometime after traditional payout in early October. Dunleavy said he plans for the additional payout to come from the Alaska Permanent Fund’s earnings reserve account.
About those vetoes
After trickling out parts of the Legislature’s budget that he would not veto for a second time, terming them as his “restorations,” the governor delivered vetoes today that stood by a vast majority of what he vetoed in late June.
Vetoes hit public broadcasting, the Ocean Ranger Program, Medicaid, adult dental benefits, substance abuse treatment grants and the Alaska Wing Civil Air Patrol. He re-vetoed $334,000 from the Alaska Court System as part of his retribution on the system for its recent ruling that struck down a state law that limited funding for abortions (one of the items of the recall effort targeting the governor). He also vetoed an additional $5 million the Legislature added to the budget in order to take the bite off reductions to the Alaska Marine Highway System’s service.
In addition to not vetoing for a second time funding for the University of Alaska, Senior Benefits Program, early education and legal services for poor Alaskans, the governor also announced that he would not veto funding for the Alaska State Council on the Arts, human services community grants (which affect homelessness programs) and various state agricultural programs.
The governor credited himself for starting a conversation with the vetoes, and said that any pain caused by his actions was unintentional.
“I understand that this caused significant angst among Alaskans,” he said. “This was not our intention.”
Regardless of his intention, the governor’s vetoes have already caused pain for the programs and not all of it will be easily reversed.
Programs like the Alaska State Council on the Arts already laid off their staff and the state’s pilot hemp program already destroyed thousands of hemp plants after the Division of Agriculture laid off 20 employees due to the governor’s cut.
“What entirely unnecessary chaos,” tweeted Pat Race, a member of the Alaska State Council on the Arts (and weekly Midnight Sun cartoonist). “We’ll be lucky if we can hire back our staff after a month and a half of downtime and the wild uncertainty caused by this administration.”