In a “shaking the gift box” preview of the upcoming political season, Gov. Mike Dunleavy told reporters just before the annual holiday open house at the Governor’s Mansion Tuesday he plans to unveil a new revenue source in his proposed budget on Thursday and is still determining how a bipartisan state Legislature will affect wording he seeks on a proposed constitutional amendment limiting abortion.
The newly reelected governor also said he favors public use of motorized vessels anywhere on Mendenhall Lake and expressed concerns about a lawsuit challenging state Rep. David Eastman’s eligibility to serve due to his membership in the Oath Keepers.
Dunleavy, whose first term got off to a rocky and confrontational start due to drastic budget cuts that helped prompt an unsuccessful recall effort, said the recent drop in oil prices — about $75 a barrel compared to a peak of more than $120 earlier this year — is an unpredictable element in crafting next year’s budget. But he said it isn’t affecting the proposed spending plan he’s required to release by Dec. 15.
“It’s tough to time oil prices and production, so you almost have to grab a period in time,” he said, adding “we’re just going to have to work with the Legislature on what we want to fund and how we want to fund that, and that’s what were going to be talking about on the 15th.”
The governor also tossed in a teaser without providing any specifics.
“We have a revenue idea that we’re going to run by the Legislature,” he said, adding it will also be revealed on Thursday.
Dunleavy said during the campaign he favored putting a state constitutional amendment banning abortion before voters. But on Tuesday he said the post-election makeup of the Legislature — which will include a bipartisan Senate majority and a good likelihood of the same in the House — means his pursuit of an amendment may shift.
“Given the nature of the Legislature we don’t know where that will go,” he said. “We believe the people of Alaska deserve an opportunity to weigh in on it.”
The governor also made headlines during the campaign season by filing a lawsuit seeking to seize the Mendenhall lake and river from the federal government, which among other things would remove existing access restrictions on the waters. When asked Tuesday if he favors allowing anyone to use any kind of motorized vessel anywhere on the lake up to the face of the glacier he responded in the affirmative.
“We believe that all of our rivers and lakes belong to the state of Alaska unless otherwise specifically indicated they don’t,” he said. As for motorized access on Mendenhall Lake, “I think we should allow free access to these waters that’s the same as for any other rivers and lakes in Alaska, so yes.”
Dunleavy said he isn’t paying close attention to Eastman’s trial that began today in state Superior Court in Anchorage, but the premise behind the challenge is a concern.
“I think everyone should be concerned if people believe your association with a certain group excludes you from potentially running,” he said. “We’ve got to be very careful because that could be a very slippery slope for a lot of us.”
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