A coalition of more than 25 organizations gathered for a press conference Wednesday in Anchorage, southcentral Alaska under the moniker, Save Our State. Their single message for Governor Mike Dunleavy: no more vetoes.
State legislators passed House Bill 2001 at the end of July. It would reverse most of the nearly $400 million in vetoes that Dunleavy proposed at the end of June. It would also set Permanent Fund Dividends at $1,600 this year. That’s in stark contrast to Dunleavy’s desire for a full PFD under the 1982 statutory formula. That would yield PFDs of just over $3,000.
Michael Fredericks is chair of the board for Anchorage nonprofit Catholic Social Services. At the conference, she said that the governor’s vetoes would cut their budget by $1.2 million.
She says that more than 3,000 clients were served by CSS in the first quarter of this year, with needs ranging from housing and food to those of refugees and pregnant women.
“Twenty-one percent of them were over 55,” Fredericks said, before a long pause. “Sixteen percent of them are children.”
She says the organization has already had to close the Clare House homeless shelter during the day in order to maintain nighttime operation. Fredericks says CSS projects a 48 percent increase in homelessness, should the governor veto the funds a second time.
Vince Beltrami, President of Alaska AFL-CIO, a labour organization with over 50 affiliated unions, was another speaker at the event. He said early estimates show that Alaska would lose 7,000 jobs under Dunleavy’s vetoes.
“Eliminated jobs would be full-time jobs with benefits, while jobs created from a PFD boost would be temporary and low-wage,” Beltrami said. “Those aren’t Alaska values.”
When asked if he was optimistic that the governor would sign a bill that overrides his vetoes, Beltrami said that during testimony to lawmakers from constituents, more than 85 percent of them supported less cuts to state services.
“The people have spoken overwhelmingly. And the legislature has fixed it, twice,” Beltrami said. “Sign the budget, Governor. No more vetoes. Let’s get Alaska back on track.”
The operating budget bill was delivered to Governor Dunleavy’s desk Wednesday morning for his signature. In his most recent statements on the budget, Dunleavy stood by his vetoes and his desire for a full PFD.
He has until August 30 to sign or veto the bill, or issue line-item vetoes.
Related stories from around the North:
Finland: Finland’s new gov breezes through no-confidence vote over its agenda, Yle News
Sweden: Swedish Centre Party promises tax break for rural northerners, Radio Sweden
United States: Ten things to know about Alaska’s budget, Alaska Public Media