Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Red pens and budget actions: Takeaways from a busy week at the Capitol

Legislators looking ahead at Senate’s budget, possible vetoes

It was a busy, productive week at the Alaska State Capitol, as the House of Representatives passed its budget and critics of that budget — including the governor — were vocal in their opposition.

With the week in the rear view mirror, we’re taking a look at three key storylines from this week and why they matter.

Whose pen is mightier?

There was a bit of utensil-based silliness around the Capitol this week. On Dunleavy’s recent statewide tour, some attendees at his events gave him red pens, encouraging the governor to use his veto power if the Legislature’s budget proposal doesn’t promise a full PFD. At a press conference this week, Dunleavy briefly mentioned this, calling it “interesting.”

At that very press conference, Dunleavy had a red pen in his front suit pocket. Then a couple days later, his account tweeted a picture of a pile of red pens with a message that said he “will use every constitutional authority given to me to secure Alaska’s future.”

This, of course, is not about pens. It’s about the battle brewing between Dunleavy and the Legislature — likely over the amount of the PFD — and whose power will prevail. Dunleavy can veto anything he wants in the budget, and it takes a three-quarters majority of the Legislature to overturn a veto. That’s not easy.

Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, said in an interview Friday that many legislators have already been doing the math on that front. He said they aren’t quite there yet, from what he can tell, but talks are already in the works in preparation for the possibility of Dunleavy using his veto power.

The budget moves on

Members of the House’s bipartisan majority have expressed their opposition to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s deep proposed cuts, and the House’s budget, unsurprisingly, reflected their view. The budget passed by the House on Thursday contains more than $200 million in cuts from the 2020 fiscal year management plan put together by the previous administration.

The budget doesn’t include anything about the Permanent Fund Dividend, which drew criticism from members of the House Minority and Senate Majority.

The budget now goes to the more conservative Senate. Senators plan to include the PFD in their budget proposal, which will likely make for a much more contentious budget debate than what we saw in the House. It will also likely give us a more accurate vision of what the final budget will look like.

Another governor appointee under fire

During a confirmation hearing for Department of Public Safety Commissioner designee Amanda Price, two former supervisors painted vastly different pictures of her work ethic and suitability for the job. While former Gov. Bill Walker’s former chief of staff criticized Price, Walker’s former deputy chief of staff praised her.

You can read the full AP report here.

Amanda Price, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, right, watches as Kathryn Monfreda, bureau chief of the Department of Public Safety’s Division of Statewide Services, presents the Uniform Crime Reporting Annual Report to House members during an informational meeting at the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Amanda Price, commissioner of the Department of Public Safety, right, watches as Kathryn Monfreda, bureau chief of the Department of Public Safety’s Division of Statewide Services, presents the Uniform Crime Reporting Annual Report to House members during an informational meeting at the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

This sets the table for what’s likely to be a contentious week of considering the governor’s appointees. Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, called Price’s hearing “one of the strange ones,” and that she’s looking forward to Price appearing in front of the House State Affairs Committee on Tuesday. The online calendar doesn’t include Price’s name in that hearing, but perhaps she’ll be included as Wilson said.

Price fits into the larger picture here as one in a string of Dunleavy’s appointees who has faced public criticism. Particularly early in session, the governor’s choices for board members or commissioners were withdrawing amid mini-controversies. It’s just one more point of contention between legislators and the governor in a session that’s been quite tense.


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


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