Gov. Mike Dunleavy, said at this Wednesday, May 12, 2021 news conference there may be a special session of the Alaska Legislautre. On Thursday he officially called two, one for late May and one for early August. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Dunleavy calls special sessions for budget, relief funds

Sessions called for late May and August

The Alaska State Legislature will hold two special sessions this year, one starting next week and another in August, Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced Thursday.

Lawmakers have been rushing to finish the state’s budget bill by the end of the 121-day session on Wednesday, but there’s mixed confidence as to whether it can be done in time.

“It is clear from my conversations with legislative leaders that more time is needed to complete this year’s budget and to address a long-term, permanent solution to protecting the Permanent Fund and PFD. Consequently, today I’m calling a 30-day special sessions to give lawmakers additional time to complete those tasks,” Dunleavy said in a news release.

[Dunleavy makes changes to Permanent Fund proposal]

When the governor uses his authority to call a special session, he also has the power to limit the scope of that session to certain topics.

The first special session begins 10 a.m. May 20, according to the governor’s office, and directs work on the fiscal year 2022 operating and mental health budgets, the Permanent Fund Dividend and the governor’s proposed constitutional amendment regarding the Alaska Permanent Fund.

Dunleavy also called a special session for Aug. 2. That session would allow lawmakers to discuss appropriations for federal American Rescue Plan Act relief money, the governor’s two other proposed constitutional amendments and “potential measures to increase state revenues.”

Lawmakers adjourned early last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and this year the House of Representatives took over a month before it elected a leadership, seriously delaying that body’s legislative work. In a meeting with reporters Thursday, Dunleavy said he wasn’t blaming the Legislature for needing more time and that he was optimistic lawmakers would be able to pass a solution for the state’s fiscal problem.

“These are doable things we just have to focus, put the time in and get these things done,” Dunleavy said.

The governor cited his press conference Wednesday, where he and other mostly Republican lawmakers expressed support for one of Dunleavy’s proposed constitutional amendments as evidence of broad support for resolving the state’s financial deficit.

In a statement House Speaker Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, said “We stand ready to negotiate with the Senate and get the job done when they complete their work on the budget, and we also maintain our longstanding commitment to finding a way to solve the state’s structural deficit. This work can begin in earnest now that all the parties are finally coming to the table.”

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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