University of Alaska Southeast Instructor Jim Powell, left, his wife, former Rep. Beth Kerttula, and Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau, right, stand up a university sign as former Chancellor John Pugh speaks at a rally for funding the University of Alaska in front of the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

University of Alaska Southeast Instructor Jim Powell, left, his wife, former Rep. Beth Kerttula, and Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau, right, stand up a university sign as former Chancellor John Pugh speaks at a rally for funding the University of Alaska in front of the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Capitol Live: Dunleavy budget would require eliminating 1,300 university positions, president says

Live updates from inside the Capitol.

4:05 p.m.

A quick anecdote from Senate Majority Leader Mia Costello. She got a call today from a man who said he had never called a legislator or gotten politically involved. The man has two kids in school right now and was concerned about the proposed cuts to education statewide, Costello said.

She told him that this is only a proposed budget, and that this is only the beginning of the budget process. Costello said investing in education is a key component in setting the state up for future success.

“My concern is that the economy, which is just now coming out of a recession, that we don’t further a recession by a budget that might not support economic recovery,” Costello said. “In the Senate in the past, we’ve fully funded education and forward-funded it, early funded it, added more money for education, so that’s going to be a vibrant discussion about the level of spending for education.”

Costello’s main point was that this is only a budget proposal, and that the Legislature is going to take its job seriously as it examines every line of it.

“I told one of my constituents today, ‘Don’t go putting the For Sale sign in your yard just yet.’ People are reacting very strongly to the budget,” Costello said. “I think we all expected that.”

She also wrote this opinion piece today: With release of Dunleavy’s budget, it’s time to listen to Alaskans

— Alex McCarthy

1:35 p.m.

Democratic senators released a series of statements Wednesday condemning Dunleavy’s proposed budget.

“Gov. Dunleavy is declaring war on seniors, kids, and the most vulnerable among us while holding harmless the most profitable companies in the world,” Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, said.

“It is quite clear that Governor Dunleavy does not take his job and our state’s Constitution seriously,” Senate Democratic Leader Tom Begich (D-Anchorage) said. “The trend he is setting for the state is evident; strip public assets to fill private pockets.”

“It deepens the divide between the haves, and the have nots,” Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin, said. “It strikes rural Alaskans more acutely, forcing them to leave their communities and head to the metropolitan center. Many of these Alaskans will become homeless in Anchorage, adding to that socially-marginalized population.”

“Substance abuse treatment and mental health services, combined with a strong education system, are the key to rebuilding safe communities and saving the state money for the long-term,” Sen. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, said. “Continuing to paralyze public safety with significant cuts to Troopers and VPSOs, who are the first line of defense for thousands of Alaskans, shows his lack of understanding of rural Alaska needs. If the Governor’s goal is to create more criminals, then this budget succeeds at that.”

— Alex McCarthy

12:33 p.m.

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen said today that he would have no choice but to propose to the Board of Regents deep cuts for every UA campus including community campuses, major reductions to faculty and staff, and reduction and elimination of educational programs and services across the state.

The governor’s fiscal year 2020 budget, made public this morning, reduces the state-funded university operating budget by $134 million, or 41 percent, from its current operating budget. This is the largest budget cut in the university’s 100-year history, Johnsen said, and comes on top of state budget cuts in four out of the last five years.

“Cuts at this level cannot simply be managed or accommodated,” he said. “If this budget passes the Legislature, it will devastate university programs and services, and the negative effects will be felt in communities across the entire state.”

He said at a press conference that an estimated 1,300 positions would need to be eliminated. As a result of past budget cuts, they’ve already cut about 1,200 positions.

“Those were not empty positions,” Johnsen said. “Those were names on a payroll. My suspicion is that they’re not going to open up another drive-thru coffee stand, they’re going to move to another state where the economy is booming.”

To emphasize the size of a $134 million cut, he said the UA Southeast’s budget alone costs $25 million, all the community campuses combined cost $38 million and UA Anchorage costs $120 million.

“Even closing the entire UAA campus does not meet that ($134 million) cut,” Johnsen said.

— Mollie Barnes

12:25 p.m.

The press conferences are over and the reactions have begun.

Senate Majority Leader Mia Costello wrote this op-ed saying she’s ready to start listening to constituents about their thoughts on the budget.

Read that here: With release of Dunleavy’s budget, it’s time to listen to Alaskans

Current and former legislators are hitting Twitter with their reactions.

Here’s Dunleavy’s tweet about his budget being unveiled:

— Alex McCarthy

11:48 a.m.

Arduin says they’re slightly increasing funding for courts, helping to keep them open all day on Fridays. Courts currently are only open for half the day Friday to save money.

— Alex McCarthy

11:37 a.m.

In reference to the AMHS, Arduin says there will be a consultant working with the ferry system for about a year to develop a plan moving forward. That’s detailed a little bit in the bill below.

— Alex McCarthy

11:30 a.m.

Gov. Dunleavy talks about his state budget:

11:28 a.m.

Arduin says there’s going to be a 75 percent reduction to the Alaska Marine Highway System’s budget. She mentioned it earlier on as an inefficient system.

“They are making use of a marine consultant to determine what their options are…to make their systems more profitable and efficient,” Arduin says.

— Alex McCarthy

11:23 a.m.

Folks from OMB are here to look through the budget. As you’ll notice on the OMB site, the documents don’t address the Permanent Fund Dividend. Arduin says the PFD is not included in this budget because the governor doesn’t believe the PFD should be part of the budget.

— Alex McCarthy

11:10 a.m.

There’s a brief break in press conferences, but the chairs of the Senate Finance Committee have issued their response to the budget proposal.

“The budget is only part of the picture — the Senate Finance Committee will be tracking and analyzing how the budget and other proposed appropriations and constitutional changes interact to affect the health of our state’s economy,” Co-Chair Sen. Natasha Von Imhof says in the release. “While it is too early to understand all the impacts today, we’re committed to taking the time to fully analyze and thoroughly vet these proposals.”

Read the full release below.

— Alex McCarthy

10:55 a.m.

“Everybody in this room and in the state know there are going to be sacrifices,” Dunleavy says when asked if he thinks voters expected cuts like this when they voted for him in November.

— Alex McCarthy

10:51 a.m.

A quick look at the amended operating budget proposal shows a 19.8 percent cut to the Department of Education and Early Development and a 25.6 percent to the Department of Health and Social Services.

“We can’t continue to be all things to all people,” Dunleavy says.

10:45 a.m.

The OMB site now has a live page for the budget. Check it out here.

— Alex McCarthy

10:43 a.m.

Dunleavy is asked about job losses. Arduin answers.

The budget will show 625 full-time job losses, and over 700 employees total, Arduin says.

Dunleavy is then asked if employees who get laid off might end up going out of state.

“That’ll be their choice,” Dunleavy says, saying they want to build the economy over time.

— Alex McCarthy

OMB Director Donna Arduin explains the budget as Gov. Mike Dunleavy listens during a press conference to announce the state’s budget on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

OMB Director Donna Arduin explains the budget as Gov. Mike Dunleavy listens during a press conference to announce the state’s budget on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

10:40 a.m.

Arduin talks quite a bit about consolidation and eliminating duplications and inefficiencies. With consolidation, there’s a proposal to consolidate the state’s investigative functions into the Department of Law. This would reassign people from Commerce, Environmental Conservation, Health and Social Services, Workforce Development and Revenue.

Specifically in terms of inefficiencies, she mentions the Alaska Marine Highway System.

— Alex McCarthy

10:38 a.m.

OMB Director Donna Arduin is here, saying that public safety was a major priority in this budget (as expected).

“Putting off the problem until next year won’t make it go away,” Arduin says. “…We’re here to solve our problems instead of asking Alaskans to do it for us.”

— Alex McCarthy

10:35 a.m.

Dunleavy is here. He’s still not using the word “cut” when talking about the reductions in his budget proposal.

“This budget is going to be $1.6 billion different” than the initial budget released in December, he says at the outset.

— Alex McCarthy

10:29 a.m.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy is about to start his press conference unveiling his budget. We’re also paying attention to the Office of Managment and Budget website to see when it updates. Stay tuned here.

— Alex McCarthy

Gov. Mike Dunleavy press secretary Matt Shuckerow addresses media members upon releasing his budget proposal on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy press secretary Matt Shuckerow addresses media members upon releasing his budget proposal on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

10 a.m.

One of the main items people will be looking for in Dunleavy’s budget proposal will be state jobs. In an interview with the Empire on Saturday, Dunleavy said there will be state jobs cut in his proposal. He didn’t specify how many, as you might expect.

Juneau’s legislative delegation has expressed concern about this, and sent letters to every department commissioner requesting that they keep Juneau’s legislators in the loop if they consider cutting jobs in Juneau.

More on that here: Juneau’s legislators express concern about state jobs leaving Juneau

Dunleavy’s press conference unveiling the budget is in half an hour. Stay tuned.

— Alex McCarthy

8:49 a.m.

The House is proposing a new way forward — sans speaker.

“It is a simple structure that will be a little slower, but it will provide equity to establish our priorities,” said Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer.

During a press conference, Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, said House Concurrent Resolution 1 will be introduced on the floor today, which would suspend the uniform rules that require a majority to establish a speaker to conduct business.

The resolution must be passed by a two-thirds vote in the House and in the Senate.

If passed, it would mean all bills would automatically be scheduled on the calendar upon request of the bill’s sponsor. Normal committee processes would be suspended, but each representative would be on an equal playing field for every bill. The current House Temporary Speaker, Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, would continue in that role. In absence of a speaker, a majority of the full membership of the House would approve temporary House representation on the Legislative Counsel.

The duties of the temporary speaker could be expanded by a majority vote. This concurrent resolution would only apply until a permanent Speaker of the House was elected, if that were to happen later in the session.

“[Passing this with a two-thirds vote is] going to be a challenge,” said Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski. “We’re talking about a conversation of let’s get things done, versus the power struggle that’s happening in this House. It is going to be uncomfortable. It is going to bring conflict. And we are hoping that we can move forward with this plan, otherwise we are going to continue to be stalemated.”

— Mollie Barnes

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, asks for Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, to clarify comments Knopp made to the press about how he would vote for Speaker of the House on Tuesday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, asks for Rep. Gary Knopp, R-Kenai, to clarify comments Knopp made to the press about how he would vote for Speaker of the House on Tuesday. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

8:45 a.m.

The day we’ve been waiting for is finally here. It’s budget day in the Capitol.

It’s been a tense week so far, and the tension in the building has spread to social media. Gov. Mike Dunleavy took a shot at the House of Representatives, which still hasn’t organized after nearly a full month of session.

Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, fired back on Facebook.

Just yesterday, one of Juneau’s representatives, Rep. Andi Story, said she believes the delay in the budget is part of the reason for the House not having organized yet.

Read more about that here: Local lawmakers hoping for bipartisan, strong majority

Lawmakers are preparing for a budget with large cuts, and it’s frustrated them that the budget has taken so long to come out.

Read more about that here: Legislators brace for unknowns of Dunleavy’s budget

— Alex McCarthy

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks about his budget as OMB Director Donna Arduin listens during a press conference to announce the state’s budget on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks about his budget as OMB Director Donna Arduin listens during a press conference to announce the state’s budget on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

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