Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, left, speaks with Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, on the House floor as amendments to the budget are proposed on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Big Lake, left, speaks with Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, on the House floor as amendments to the budget are proposed on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Dunleavy impatient, unhappy with House as it dives into budget talks

House dives into budget talks, only one amendment passes

On the second floor of the Alaska State Capitol on Tuesday, the House of Representatives began its slow slog through its budget proposal.

One floor above them, Gov. Mike Dunleavy declared his impatience with the pace of the House’s progress. Dunleavy, speaking to media members in his conference room about the budget process and his recent roadshow, said the House Finance Committee disappointed him with its relatively small proposed cuts.

“Some would say it’s a step in the right direction, but that’s like taking one step and you’ve got a hundred yards to go to get a touchdown,” Dunleavy said. “Surely they’re pointed toward the goal line, but it’s far short of what we need.”

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

The House Finance Committee all but ignored Dunleavy’s cuts-heavy budget proposal, starting its process instead with a budget management plan for this fiscal year put together by former Gov. Bill Walker. The members of the House Finance Committee put forth a budget that includes about $10.2 billion in government spending, compared with Dunleavy’s proposed budget of about $8.8 billion in state spending, according to statistics from the nonpartisan Legislative Finance Division.

The committee’s budget would result in a lower Permanent Fund Dividend than the governor’s proposed budget as well, as the House budget would use Permanent Fund money for state government — as is allowed in Senate Bill 26, passed last session. Dunleavy expressed displeasure about that in his press conference and on Twitter.

Representatives gathered on the House floor for about three hours Tuesday to start proposing amendments to the budget. Only one amendment passed. Rep. Sara Rasmussen, R-Anchorage, proposed cutting about $33,000 from the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Commission. That office helps connect students with financial aid opportunities and helps families with affording educational resources, according to its website.

Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, left, speaks with Rep. George Rauscher, R-Anchorage, center, and Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, on the House floor as amendments to the budget are proposed on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, left, speaks with Rep. George Rauscher, R-Anchorage, center, and Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, on the House floor as amendments to the budget are proposed on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, the House had yet to tackle any major items in the budget proposal, such as the elimination of the school construction debt reimbursement program. Eliminating that program, which helps municipalities afford school construction and renovation projects, was the most widely criticized action the House Finance Committee took in its amendment process.

Local leaders in Anchorage and Juneau were particularly vocal about the elimination of the program. Losing the program could cost the City and Borough of Juneau $7.1 million for next year, according to a CBJ news release.

Most of the time on the floor Tuesday was spent fielding proposed amendments from Wasilla Republican Rep. David Eastman. Eastman proposed nine amendments about everything from union contracts to sex education to the Alaska Court System’s website. None of the amendments passed.

[Eaglecrest moves one step closer to serving alcohol]

Dunleavy spoke at length Tuesday morning about how he hopes the House and eventually the Senate will pay attention to his proposed crime bills and constitutional amendments. The amendments are focused on protecting the PFD, requiring that a new tax be put in front of voters and establishing a spending cap.

He said he wasn’t happy that the House began with a prior governor’s budget instead of his proposal, and said the House Finance Committee’s proposal is “an incomplete fix,” and used Bill Murray as an example of what he thinks can happen if the Legislature doesn’t do something drastic this session in regard to cutting the budget.

“In other words, we want to get rid of this Groundhog Day concept of the budget,” Dunleavy said. “We do the same thing every year, we have the same arguments, the same discussions and we get a budget for one year and then we stumble to the next year.”

Dunleavy, who met with Senate leaders Tuesday, said he hopes that side of the Legislature will be more friendly to his proposals.

“We’re hoping that the Senate can get more in line with the idea of large reductions and a permanent fiscal plan through constitutional amendments,” Dunleavy said.


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


More in News

In this June 2019 photo, people gather outside U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office in Juneau, Alaska, to protest the proposed Pebble Mine. The Pebble Limited Partnership, which wants to build a copper and gold mine near the headwaters of a major U.S. salmon fishery in southwest Alaska, says it plans to offer residents in the region a dividend. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File)
Mine developer sees review as positive for Alaska project

Pebble is on track to win key approvals. Critics say it has been rushed and is inadequate.

Homer Wells Fargo employee tests positive for COVID-19; branch closes for the day

The Homer branch of Wells Fargo closed today after an employee there… Continue reading

AP FILE PHOTO BY James Poulson/Daily Sitka Sentinel 
                                The bronze statue of 19th century Russian America Governor Alexander Baranov sports a hard hat and a reflective vest, after being moved from its original site in front of Centennial Hall in Sitka in February 2013. Far away from Confederate memorials, Alaska residents have joined the movement to eliminate statues of colonialists accused of abusing and exploiting Indigenous people. The effort has already resulted in the statue of Baranov being taken out of public view in the city.
Homer Farmers Market: Booths are brimming

I didn’t even get to the Homer Farmers Market until 2 p.m.… Continue reading

Gary Stevens looks to keep his Alaska Senate seat

Incumbent Gary Stevens is making a bid to keep his seat in… Continue reading

Soldotna’s Greg Madden makes bid for Alaska Senate

Relative political newcomer Greg Madden of Soldotna is hoping to serve his… Continue reading

John Cox makes a run at Senate District P seat

In a bid for what would be his freshman term in state… Continue reading

The Compass men’s residential addiction treatment facility, located about 15 miles east of Homer, Alaska, had an open house on Saturday, July 25, 2020. The facility is slated to accept its first clients in about a week. (Photo courtesy Lindsey Cashman)
Residential addiction treatment facility for men opens outside Homer

Men from the Homer area and beyond seeking recovery from addiction can… Continue reading

Most Read