The front doors to the Alaska State Capitol. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

The front doors to the Alaska State Capitol. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Alaska lawmakers try to beat the clock to override Dunleavy’s vetoes

It’s not yet clear if they have the votes.

Update: The override vote failed today. Read about it here.

***

Alaska lawmakers are racing against the clock to once again try to override Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s vetoes from last legislative session.

House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, and Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage announced Thursday in a joint statement that the two chambers would meet to consider veto overrides. The House and Senate are scheduled to have a joint floor session beginning at 10:30 a.m. Friday.

[Follow the Capitol Live blog for live updates from today’s meeting here]

Lawmakers have a five-day deadline since the start of session to override the vetoes, per the Alaska Constitution. Session started Tuesday, making Saturday the last chance to do so.

In attempt to balance the state’s budget last year, Dunleavy proposed cutting the state’s operating budget by $1.6 billion. The Legislature responded by passing the smallest state budget in over a decade, only to be met with Dunleavy’s red pen. In July, he line-item vetoed about $400 million, sparking outrage and concern among Alaskans worried about dramatic cuts to Medicaid, the university system and education, senior benefits, the ferry system, public broadcasting, job losses and the economy. Residents responded en masse with protests and a recall effort. Ultimately, Dunleavy vetoed $205 million and reduced state spending by $650 million, according to the Legislative Finance Division.

Lawmakers did not have the votes last year to override the vetoes. The Legislature would need 45 votes of the 60 lawmakers to override.

It’s not yet clear if lawmakers have the votes this time around either.

Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, said legislators have been speaking between the break from the first and session session to see where there’s support for overrides. Some of the issues that appear to have support, according to Kiehl, are the Alaska Marine Highway System, school bond debt reimbursement, and public broadcasting.

“I think people are still trying to make sure they’ve got 45 votes, the highest threshold in the country, as we speak,” Kiehl said. “I’ve talked to some colleagues and everyone’s bustling around.”

Dunleavy spokesperson Jeff Turner said the governor’s office had no comment at this time. The governor is currently in Anchorage and there may be a teleconference following the session, according to Lauren Gilliam, deputy press secretary for the governor.

“There is a serious push to try and put together the votes for public broadcasting,” Kiehl said. “There’s such a critical public safety function throughout rural Alaska, and of course it’s a critical part of having Gavel to Gavel coverage so that every Alaskan can see what’s going on in their government.”

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.

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