Alaska governor accepts reduced dividends, upholds most vetoes

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks at a news conference in Anchorage, Alaska, Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019. Dunleavy signed a bill providing for $1,600 permanent fund dividends on Monday, but upheld line-item vetoes. (Mark Thiessen/AP Photo)
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed a bill on Monday that provides permanent fund dividends of $1,600. He vetoed funding to reimburse municipalities for school construction debt, as well as to pay for Medicaid.

And he said in a recorded statement that he expects to call a third special session this fall solely to pay another roughly $1,400 dollars per Alaskan in PFDs, which would bring the total dividend to the amount matching the formula in a 1982 state law.

“If I had the authority to add more money to the budget for a full PFD, I would,” he said. “However, only the Legislature, by constitution, can appropriate these funds. The Legislature has once again denied the people of Alaska the full statutory PFD.”

Dunleavy, a Republican, signed House Bill 2001, which would have reversed nearly all of the roughly $400 million the governor vetoed from the state budget in June.

But Dunleavy again vetoed just over half of that money.

He also vetoed $5 million in Alaska Marine Highway System funding that the Legislature attempted to add.

Listen to Mike Dunleavy’s update on the state’s budget:

Dunleavy said the cuts are necessary to bring what the state spends in line with what it raises.

“Reforms have been initiated to make services and programs such as Medicaid, the University of Alaska and the Alaska Marine Highway system more efficient and more sustainable,” he said.

The vetoes also include all state funding for public radio and TV, as well as $3 million for unfilled village public safety officer positions.

This time, Dunleavy did not veto funds for the Alaska State Council on the Arts and to promote agriculture. These reversals are on top of previous decisions to agree to fund senior benefits, the University of Alaska, early learning and legal services.

House Speaker Bryce Edgmon said the Legislature had heard the people of Alaska when it voted to restore the funds.

“I think there should be appreciation for the funds that the governor restored,” he said. “But keep it in mind that the Legislature took unprecedented action of having to  put most of the vetoed items back into legislation and put it before the governor a second time. And this was done without the help of the governor or his staff.”

Edgmon is a Dillingham independent who leads a House majority that includes Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Dunleavy also vetoed more than $5.5 billion in transfers from the permanent fund’s earnings reserve to the constitutionally protected portion of the fund.

Sitka Republican Sen. Bert Stedman expressed disappointment and said he hopes Dunleavy considers agreeing to protect the funds in the future.

“We need to take the long view for the permanent fund, for future generations of Alaskans, and not short-term gratification of, ‘Me now, give me the biggest check you can give me’ and not worry about our future,” Stedman said.

Dunleavy said he wants to work with Alaskans, legislators and stakeholders on writing next year’s budget.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: MLAs in Canada’s Northwest Territories expect ‘hectic’ sitting ahead of territorial election, CBC News

Finland: Finland’s new gov breezes through no-confidence vote over its agenda, Yle News

Sweden: Swedish government unveils proposed spring budget, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska governor cites public response in veto reversals, Alaska Public Media

Andrew Kitchenman, Alaska Public Media & KTOO - Juneau

For more news from Alaska visit Alaska Public Media.

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