House Finance Committee Co-Chairs Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, and Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, listen to testimony on Tuesday, July 9, 2019, at the Capitol about how Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetoes will affect local communities around the state. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

House Finance Committee Co-Chairs Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, and Rep. Neal Foster, D-Nome, listen to testimony on Tuesday, July 9, 2019, at the Capitol about how Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetoes will affect local communities around the state. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Even ‘right-leaning’ groups, bankers and builders are calling for an override

Testimony universally pans vetoes

Bankers, home builders, Alaska Natives, health care professionals, nonprofit leaders and more all had one message for the Legislature: Override the governor’s vetoes.

During Tuesday afternoon’s House Finance Committee meeting, there were almost two hours of invited testimony delivered in support of overriding Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s 182 line-item budget vetoes totalling over $400 million. At 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, a joint session of the House and Senate is scheduled for consideration of veto overrides.

“I can’t put into words how serious this is and how important it is to override the governor’s veto package,” said Steve Lundgren, who spoke on behalf of the Alaska Bankers Association.

He said while the association generally favors smaller government, it does not support governor’s approach — more than $400 million in vetoes — to the Legislature-approved budget is the best option.

Lundgren said slashes to support for the University of Alaska and school bond debt reimbursement could hurt bond ratings and banks throughout the state.

[Live: Coverage of Tuesday’s talk of ‘the sweep’ and veto overrides]

Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, co-chair of the committee, asked if spending at a defecit hurts bond ratings.

Lundgren said over a long enough timeline it could but in the immediate future it would not be as damaging as the the governor’s vetoes.

“We do believe that a step-down approach would be looked at favorably by the rating agencies, but the significant decrease will create so many unknowns, and I think that’s what got the attention of rating agencies,” he said.

Similarly, Jeff Twait of the “right-leaning” Alaska State Home Building Association voiced his organization’s support for a veto override out of concern that the vetoes could cause an economic downturn.

[Economists say vetoes could cause job losses]

Diane Kaplan, CEO and President for the Rasmuson Foundation, and Laurie Wolf, President and CEO of the Foraker Group, each called in to say that the vetoes would undermine their efforts as nonprofits.

Wolf said while not all the nonprofits with which the Anchorage-based Foraker Group works receive state funding, many would still be impacted by the vetoes. Other entities, such as homeless shelters, would directly see less funding as a result of the vetoes.

“Our most vulnerable will be the most harmed,” Wolf said.

Kaplan said the Rasmuson Foundation has generally tried to stay neutral while partnering itself with the state on efforts it supports, such as providing one-third of the Alaska State Council on the Arts’ funding. However, she was insistent the governor’s vetoes must be overridden.

She said anyone who believes that the private sector will plug the funding gap created by the vetoes is fooling themselves.

“It’s impossible,” Kaplan said.

She also said the foundation will have to rethink the efforts — such as supporting endeavors to decrease homelessness — in light of the state’s lack of committed funds.

“We feel our very ability to do this work will be impacted by these vetoes,” Kaplan said.

University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen was the first to call in to the meeting to again raise concerns that losing $130 million in state funding — a 41-percent cut — would be “devastating” for the university.

[Live: Governor announces vetoes, legislators and University of Alaska responds]

He said a conservative estimate puts the number of layoffs that would be cause by the vetoes at 1,300, but there would likely be more than that. That’s because the university anticipates a reduction in tuition revenue as a result of program and cuts and possibly campus closures that would result from lost funding.

“I would ask your consideration of the override,” Johnsen said. “This is very disruptive and an unprecedented interruption in investment in higher education.”


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


More in News

The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Aurora forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of Nov. 27

In this photo provided by the National Transportation Safety Board, NTSB investigator Clint Crookshanks, left, and member Jennifer Homendy stand near the site of some of the wreckage of the DHC-2 Beaver, Wednesday, May 15, 2019, that was involved in a midair collision near Ketchikan. The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday that the Federal Aviation Administration should tighten rules about minimum visibility during flights and require more weather training for pilots who fly around Ketchikan.  (Peter Knudson/NTSB via AP)
Safety board recommends new measures for Alaska air tours

The board wants regulations for Ketchikan similar to requirements in Hawaii and the Grand Canyon.

Harbor seals have a face full of whiskers, which the seals use to follow hydrodynamic wakes left by prey fish; even a blind seal can track a fish this way, discriminating victims by size and shape and direction of movement.  (Courtesy Photo / Jos Bakker)
On the Trails: The sense of touch

Touch is a mechanical sense, detecting physical stimuli such as pressure, texture,… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Tuesday, Nov. 29

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

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Saturday, Nov. 26

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

Sugar Bear Alaskan Treasures, seen here, was one of many artist vendors featured at the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska Indigenous Artists & Vendors Holiday Market from noon to 5 p.m. on Friday through Sunday at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
Indigenous Holiday Market features local artists

Market’s first return since 2018.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Thursday, Nov. 24

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

A member of the Juneau Gun Club helps participants with shooting clay targets, one of many events featured at the club’s annual Thanksgiving turkey shoot. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
Ready, aim, gobble: Juneau Gun Club hosts annual Turkey Shoot

No turkeys were harmed in the making of this article.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Wednesday, Nov. 23

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

Most Read