Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, met with reporters in Speaker’s Chambers Friday to discuss the Legislature’s next moves in the wake of the failure to override Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s $444 million in cuts.
“The message to the general public more than anything,” Edgmon said, is that, “the veto override clearly failed, that shouldn’t come as a surprise to Alaskans although it certainly is a major disappointment to anyone pushing for the override to occur.”
“But we’re not done, there’s other avenues, we’re conversing with the governor regularly and hoping to be speaking to legislation work here in Juneau,” he said.
Edgmon said that House and Senate finance committees would be holding hearings with the general public, one such meeting scheduled for Monday in Anchorage, is set to run from 11 a.m. to 7 at night.
Edgmon said that the Legislature has asked the governor several times to put the capital budget on the call but that has yet to happen.
“It appears the governor’s strategy is to put the legislature’s emphasis on a $3,000 PFD first, and then to look at other items such as the capitol budget and veto overrides afterward,” Edgmon said.
Appropriations bills have been introduced in both the House and the Senate which gives the Legislature latitude to consider other means of funding certain programs.
He said that there was hope that the two factions could come back together, with budget deadlines for both the capital budget and the Permanent Fund Dividend coming up, necessity would bring the two sides back together.
“Public pressure, public concern is building every day,” Edgmon said “There’s an engaged public in Alaska like never before.”
Many people had expressed anger and anxiety, he said, about their jobs and even their ability to stay in Alaska.
“There’s been a lot of citizens who have been impacted with the threat of losing their livelihoods and their futures in Alaska from the moment the governor’s budget was introduced February 13th,” Edgmon said.
“Then with the vetoes becoming apparent, and this being the threat of not only the first round but there’s another round of these big cuts coming next year,” he said.
“I think that people are galvanized, and whether there’s a recall, or two or three. It wouldn’t be the first time in Alaska’s history.”
He speculated that the response from the public in the week since the special session was announced would move the legislators who gathered in Wasilla to work with the majority of the legislature.
“I think that Alaskans are waking up,” he said, to the consequences of having a full PFD at the expense of critical state programs. Cutting all the programs wasn’t the will of the majority of Alaskans, he said.
The legislature reconvenes in Juneau on Wednesday, July 17th. It’s not yet clear how many legislators will be there.