Five Quick Links on the State Budget Drama - Alaska First! Arthur Martin

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Five Quick Links on the State Budget Drama

There's a lot of headlines that have been breaking on the state legislative battle with the budget and the pfd, for your convenience here are some links that you can follow to read up on what's going on:

21 Alaska lawmakers gather for governor's Wasilla special session

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Nearly two dozen Alaska legislators gathered at Wasilla Middle School Monday for the start of the second special session.

The 21 Republican lawmakers from the Alaska House of Representatives and the Senate met in the location chosen by Gov. Mike Dunleavy for the session, saying meeting there was required under the law.

Outside the school, dozens of people met near Wasilla Lake for a rally to encourage lawmakers to pass a full statutory Permanent Fund dividend.

“It’s the people’s money,” said Mike Alexander who participated in the rally. “They have 75 percent of the state’s oil and gas revenues, and they obviously haven’t done a good job of using it.”

The protesters walked the short distance from Wasilla Lake to Wasilla Middle School to be met by a group of counter-protesters, calling for lawmakers to override the governor’s vetoes.

“They’re going to send the university and the state into a hole with no clear path to get out of that hole,” said Dave Musgrave, one of the protest’s organizers.

Basically the legislators are fighting like school children with half meeting in Wasilla and the other half (JKT cough*) meeting in Juneau. The problem is that there is only a few days for the legislature to resolve the governor's vetoes and if they don't, big budget cuts will go through. My prediction is that the Democrats will be forced to go up to Wasilla in the next few days. We shall see.

Alaska State Senate ousts majority leader

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The Alaska State Senate kicked off it second special session in Juneau with a shake-up of leadership.

In a session that lasted less than a half hour Monday, the Senate removed Sen. Mia Costello from both her position as majority leader and her assignment on the Rules Committee.

The Rules Committee controls what bills reach the full Senate.

Costello, an Anchorage Republican, was replaced in both positions by Sen. Lyman Hoffman, a Democrat from Bethel who is part of the majority.

Costello was not in Juneau. Gov. Mike Dunleavy called for the special session to be in his hometown of Wasilla and Costello was among four senators and 17 state representatives who gathered there.

Alaska Legislature split on budget vetoes, PFDs — and where to meet

Alaska legislators gathered in two different places on Monday, with different messages about state law, permanent fund dividends and Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s line-item budget vetoes.

Most lawmakers convened at the Capitol in Juneau, while a group of Republicans aligned with Dunleavy gathered at Wasilla Middle School.

The House Finance Committee also met briefly Monday afternoon, rolling out a bill that would pay a $1,600 permanent fund dividend.

But they’re pivoting almost immediately to addressing Dunleavy’s budget vetoes. Both the House and Senate have meetings scheduled on Tuesday to talk about the impact of those vetoes. They’ve also scheduled a vote on Wednesday to potentially override those vetoes.

But the group in Juneau still lacks the votes needed to override the line-item vetoes that Dunleavy issued.

Seventeen House members and four senators — all Republicans — met at Wasilla Middle School. Their leaders said it’s the only place a legitimate session can be held, because it’s where Dunleavy called it.

Costello spoke in Wasilla shortly before she was removed from her position as Senate majority leader.

“If you’re serious about the work that we have left, this is where it can happen. It can happen legally here,” she said. “And so it’s our hope that those who are in Juneau will join us here in Wasilla.”

It seems like whatever the legislature in Juneau will do, will end up going to court over a debate on whether or not the Legislature must meet for special session at the location determined by the Governor or the Legislature. Interestingly, the Governor just line item vetoed COLA funding for the Alaska state court, so it will be interesting to see, IF this goes to court, IF the judges would step down because of 'conflict of interest.'

Gutting Public Universities Is Not a Republican Value

Alaska is plenty cold, but Alaska’s college students may get a little colder next year courtesy of Republican governor Mike Dunleavy, who has used his line-item veto to cut 41 percent out of Alaska’s support for its public universities.

What has the University of Alaska done to deserve this cut?

Alaska’s state universities haven’t exactly been at the forefront of left-wing campus activism. Alaska’s universities are not heavily invested in workforce development in the state, nor does Alaska need state universities less than other states. Private pickings are slim.

Nor do state schools appear to exceed their counterparts in wasteful spending. When you compare the University of Alaska, Anchorage to other flagships, its ratio of administrative to instructional costs looks pretty good.

According to the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, UAA spends 22 cents on administration for every dollar it spends on instruction. That’s better than or comparable to flagship campuses in other states, including Rutgers, SUNY Binghamton, the University of Georgia, and the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

The best part of this story is a commenter who posted on facebook the following:

What has UA done to deserve this cut? Look at some of the salaries! Why has UA been financial irresponsible when they have been given notice for a long time? Open this link: look at these Salaries ... $600,000 for one person at UA?

OPINION: Dunleavy vs. Legislature: Who will step back?

Alaska's future is in as precarious a place as ever. A host of huge, existential questions face the state and its residents: How best to close a deficit of nearly $2 billion per year? Should the state continue to pay its residents thousands of dollars apiece each fall as state services face big cuts? How can we protect a fragile economic recovery as oil revenues and related jobs continue a slow decline? With revenue scarce, how can the state muster funds to pay for a capital budget that will keep infrastructure from falling into disrepair? Is there a viable solution to develop Alaska's vast natural gas reserves?

The backdrop as these questions await an answer this year is similarly grave: An operating budget wasn't passed until mid-June and wasn't approved by the governor until three days before a government shutdown — with hundreds of millions of dollars in line-item vetoes that illustrate just how far apart Alaskans' visions for the state are. No capital budget has yet been passed, with hundreds of millions of dollars in federal highway money and other funds hanging in the balance. There has been no allocation yet for the Permanent Fund dividend, and no path to compromise on its amount. Next year's education funding is in jeopardy because of a constitutional separation-of-powers fight between Gov. Mike Dunleavy and the Legislature.

The past several years of failure to deal with Alaska's problems have beaten the optimism out of most of us. And this year is no exception. Instead of settling on a dividend amount and approving a capital budget, what are our elected representatives doing? Fighting over the location of the next special session and threatening lawsuits at every turn.

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