In this Feb. 20 photo, Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel H. Bolger speaks to a Joint Session of the Alaska Legislature at the Capitol. Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, and Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, listen from the Speaker’s desk in the House of Representatives. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

In this Feb. 20 photo, Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel H. Bolger speaks to a Joint Session of the Alaska Legislature at the Capitol. Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, and Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, listen from the Speaker’s desk in the House of Representatives. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Dunleavy plans meeting on judicial nominees, warns of vetoes

Governor filled one Palmer Superior Court seat but refused to fill a second

Gov. Mike Dunleavy planned to meet Tuesday with the chief justice of the Alaska Supreme Court in a dispute over judicial nominations.

Dunleavy last week filled one Palmer Superior Court seat but refused to fill a second. In a letter to members of the Alaska Judicial Council, which sent him three finalists for the two seats, Dunleavy said he would “not be selecting a second candidate from this truncated list.”

Chief Justice Joel Bolger has countered that founders of the state’s constitution intended for a governor to appoint for judgeships candidates nominated by the council and defended the council’s process for vetting and nominating candidates.

“We concur that we have to pick from the list. The question is, Is there a way to broaden that list, especially going into the future because there are a lot of qualified applicants for these positions?” Dunleavy told Alaska Public Media’s Talk of Alaska Tuesday. “We just want to have a discussion as to how narrow that list is going to be and how broad it can be.”

The call-in program, which also was carried live on a public affairs TV channel, comes as Dunleavy participates in meetings around the state pitching his approach to addressing a projected $1.6 billion deficit. Five of the meetings scheduled this week, including one in Anchorage on Tuesday evening, are being hosted by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity-Alaska, prompting questions about how open the forums would be. The events, when first advertised by the group, laid out terms by which participants were to abide.

Ryan McKee, state director of Americans for Prosperity-Alaska, has said the group is renting the space and has the right to remove anyone who is disruptive and ensure the venues aren’t over capacity. He said the events are open on a first-come, first-served basis.

Dunleavy said the administration is partnering with “any and all” organizations, some of which have rules, as it outlines its fiscal policy approach. He said he’s trying to save the state money and doesn’t see a problem with it.

Democratic Sen. Donny Olson offered to pay for the venue where Americans for Prosperity-Alaska plan to host an event in Nome provided the group was not involved. In a Facebook post, he said the rental space would cost $173.25. He accused Dunleavy of wanting “a crowd controlled by stipulations that allow for no public input.”

Other Senate Democrats who cited concerns with the Americans for Prosperity-Alaska-hosted events offered to pay for venues in several cities, including Juneau, which is not on Dunleavy’s posted schedule for policy events, to “promote stronger public involvement and the people’s faith in government transparency.” Dunleavy’s office hasn’t responded, said Noah Hanson, a spokesman for the caucus.

Dunleavy’s budget proposal includes deep cuts to areas like education, health and social service programs and the state ferry system; shifts in the collection of petroleum property and certain fisheries-related taxes that would benefit the state but hurt some communities; no new statewide taxes; and a full payout of the annual check residents receive from the state’s oil-wealth fund, the Alaska Permanent Fund, following three years of reduced checks.

He also is proposing constitutional amendments to limit spending and give voters a say on new or higher taxes passed by the Legislature and changes to the dividend program.

Hundreds of people have testified in opposition to certain cuts, like those proposed for the ferry system, with some expressing an openness to being taxed or accepting a lower dividend.

Dunleavy, a Republican, has often said the dividend isn’t the problem, and he said Tuesday the state can’t tax or spend its way out of the situation. He said there many details to work out with a tax, including rates, exemptions and how long it would be in effect.

“It’s easy to throw out, ‘Just tax us.’ But when you get down in the details it becomes a lot more complicated,” he said. “I don’t think taking more money out of the private sector until we have made the government more efficient and have decided what we want for outcomes … is the answer.”

Dunleavy said he would work with the House and Senate on a budget “that works for everybody.”

“But if question is, in the end, will I exercise my constitutional authority to get the budget in line with expenditures? The answer is yes,” he said.


• This is an Associated Press report by Becky Bohrer.


More in News

Even as coronavirus numbers are going down and vaccines are being distributed, pandemic-related facilities like the testing site at Juneau International Airport, seen here in this Oct. 12 file photo, are scheduled to remain for some time, according to city health officials. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file)
Vaccines are coming, but pandemic facilities will remain

Testing sites and other COVID-19 operations will continue, officials say, but infections are trending down.

White House, tribes joined to deliver Alaska Native vaccines

The initiative has treated Indigenous tribes as sovereign governments and set aside special vaccine shipments.

After violent protesters loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol today, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, left, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., join other senators as they return to the House chamber to continue the joint session of the House and Senate and count the Electoral College votes cast in November's election, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Murkowski on impeachment: ‘I will listen carefully’ to both sides

As for timing, the senator said, “our priority this week must be to ensure safety in Washington, D.C.”

Has it always been a police car. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Juneau City Hall. The City and Borough of Juneau has distributed nearly $5 million in household and individual assistance grants since October. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
All housing and most personal assistance grants processed

About $5 million in aid is flowing to households and individuals in Juneau.

A child plays at Capital School Park. The park is in line for a remodel that will fix the crumbling retaining wall, visible in the background. (Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire)
A new life is in store for Capital School Park

Public input is helping craft a vision for the park’s voter-approved facelift.

Expected heavy snow and high winds Thursday evening prompted Alaska’s Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to issue a warning of increased avalanche hazard along Thane Road. (File photo)
Avalanche risk increasing along Thane Road

Be careful and plan for the possibility of an extended road closure.

Most Read