Gov’s crime message resonates, but Juneau lawmakers hesitant about constitutional amendments

Speech could also spur House to action, one lawmaker says

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s State of the State address was tough on crime and that resonated with lawmakers. As Rep. Dave Talerico, R-Healy, pointed out after the speech, everyone is in agreement with Dunleavy about the need to improve public safety.

“There is a lot that government should not do, cannot do, or does not do well,” Dunleavy said. “But the most important thing a government must do is keep its people safe. History will judge those of us in this room tonight on how we respond to this crisis.”

Rep. Josh Revak, a freshman Republican from Anchorage, said his biggest takeaway is the state of Alaska is going to start taking crime seriously.

“I’m glad he talked about the budget,” Revak said. “I really look forward to seeing what he proposes. But crime — I think he hit the nail on the head — I think he’s taking a real direct approach. It’s great.”

[Dunleavy declares ‘war on criminals,’ delves into fiscal plan]

Rep. Sara Hannan, a Juneau Democrat, said she has always been very concerned about crime, and making Alaskans feel safe in their homes is an important priority to take up.

However, Hannan seemed unsure about the Dunleavy announcement to propose three constitutional amendments relating to the state’s finances. Dunleavy said in his speech he plans to introduce three constitutional amendments in the coming weeks:

“A spending limit and savings plan that will keep politicians from spending every penny we have, one that allows us to save excess revenue when possible for future Alaskan.”

“No change to the PFD without a vote of the people.”

“No change in taxes without a vote of the people.”

Hannan said she does not think constitutional amendments are the appropriate place to be laying out the state’s fiscal plan.

“I happen to be more conservative about constitutional amendments,” Hannan said.

Hannan also disagrees with Dunleavy on the point of expenses and revenue. Dunleavy has maintained that Alaska’s government is too big and spends too much money, so the expenses must be cut to match revenue.

“I don’t believe we’re overspending in Alaska,” Hannan said. “I do believe we are not getting sufficient revenue from diverse sources.”

[‘The $1.6B problem’: Senators, commissioners gear up for budget challenge]

Even though she has her disagreements, Hannan said she believes the State of the State may help the House organize soon with a majority caucus. Right now there is no permanent House leadership, House majority, nor are there any committees.

“It may be able to give us some information to form a caucus around issues,” Hannan said, referring to Dunleavy’s speech and his plans to introduce legislation in the near future. “It’s not the executive branch’s job to help us galvanize but it certainly gives us specifics to talk about.”

Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, said Dunleavy’s speech was “well delivered.”

“We heard a lot of the same promises he made during the campaign,” Kiehl said. “I am really looking forward to seeing how he makes those promises when those bills are introduced and the budget comes in.”

And like Hannan, Kiehl would like to be more cautious about changing the Alaska Constitution through amendments.

“Alaska has one of the best state constitutions in all 50 states,” Kiehl said. “Our Constitution uses the same genius of the U.S. Constitution and I hesitate to change it.”

[Capitol Live: House Speaker nominations fail on eighth day]

Kiehl said one particularly noteworthy moment in the speech was when Dunleavy said the phrase “no subsidies, no tax credits,” in reference to a Palmer business owner who secured a Department of Defense contract. Kiehl said this got the best reaction from the House floor.

Kiehl remains intent on digging into the budget though.

“He’s promised to be the education governor. He’s promised huge investments in public safety and he’s promised huge budget cuts,” Kiehl said. “ I don’t want to prejudge his actual proposals. I’m looking forward to seeing them and doing the hard work when they come in.”

• Contact reporter Kevin Baird at 523-2258 or

House Republicans Cathy Tilton, left, David Talerico, center, and Lance Pruitt speak to the press outside the House chambers after Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s State of the State speech on Tuesday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

House Republicans Cathy Tilton, left, David Talerico, center, and Lance Pruitt speak to the press outside the House chambers after Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s State of the State speech on Tuesday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)