Fight to preserve state services shifts to House Finance Committee Monday

Most Alaska legislators have yet to give up on the fight to stop the dismantling of the University of Alaska and restore sanity. It ain’t over til it’s over, as Yogi said.

So keep contacting the Wasilla holdouts who have not wanted to vote on the veto of many state programs. Gov. Mike Dunleavy has refused to explain the real impact of his actions on Alaskans, choosing to hide behind surrogates and superficial catchphrases.

Downplaying the impact includes the repeated claim that the university cut is manageable. It isn’t. For example, shutting down the University of Alaska Anchorage would not be enough to balance the books.

There are alternatives.

As House Speaker Bryce Edgmon put it, “Many paths remain for the Legislature and governor to restore the vetoed programs and services, to fully fund a capital budget, and to pass a PFD.”

The effort to preserve many state and local government services continues Monday in the House Finance Committee, according to Nome Rep. Neal Foster, the co-chairman of the committee.

“As the House Chairman of the state's operating budget, I was instructed by our majority to get a new appropriations bill through the finance committee. This new bill will restore all funding of all vetoed items,” he wrote Friday in a newsletter, reported by the Nome Nugget.

“The plan is to spend the week pushing the new appropriations bill through committee and on to the floor. We are hopeful that we can win over 8 legislators for another override vote or reach a compromise with the governor.”

While this bill, if it is approved by a majority of legislators, could still be vetoed by the governor, the public opposition to the Dunleavy vetoes is strong across the state.

“Pressure is mounting in ways that were unexpected. The business community has come out overwhelmingly against the governor's cuts. Recall efforts are being started to oust legislators in moderate districts. And public efforts have not let up despite the 5-day window to override ending on Friday, July 12,” Foster said.

“The goal of taking a second bite at the apple is to continue to work with the public to win over those legislators who are on the fence,” he said.

“Rural Alaska has spoken loud and clear that they oppose the vetoes. Our district has mobilized in a way that I've never seen in the 10 years that I have served in the legislature. I have received a great deal of emails. I've spoken to folks at the post office, grocery stores, and while walking through the 4th of July crowds. It's been eye opening to see folks who have never been involved politically reach out to me and say: ‘Override the vetoes.’”

“We have the support of the business community who are fearful that the vetoes will send us into a deeper recession than the one we were just starting to come out of. We have the support of urban areas that have the same concerns we do whether it be defunding homeless shelters or education or Medicaid. And we have the support of the people.”

It’s important to keep up the pressure to maintain Alaska’s university, health care for poor people, support for the arts and to prevent Dunleavy from forcing local tax increases by simply shifting costs to local governments.

On Monday at 11 a.m., the House Finance Committee will hear HB2001, a bill that will make an appropriation for a $1,600 PFD for 2019. Public testimony is planned from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. It’s an appropriation bill that can be amended.

A $1,600 dividend amounts to a total distribution of more than $1 billion.

Dermot Cole8 Comments