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Anchorage Assembly urges veto override, citing ‘immediate and dire economic consequences’

The Anchorage Assembly took what some members called the “fairly unprecedented” action of urging the Alaska Legislature to override Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s vetoes of $444 million on the state operating budget.

The Assembly on Tuesday night in an 8-2 vote approved a resolution opposing the vetoes, “which have been executed without significant and public analysis of their impacts on Alaska lives, and without acceptance from the people of Alaska."

The resolution, which is advisory only, was sponsored by Forrest Dunbar, Austin Quinn-Davidson and Felix Rivera. Members John Weddleton and Crystal Kennedy voted against it.

The Legislature is meeting in a joint session Wednesday to weigh an override of vetoes that include a $130 million reduction for the University of Alaska, as well as cuts to Medicaid, school-debt reimbursement, and programs that benefit senior citizens, the homeless and low-income clients.

The Anchorage School Board already passed a resolution on July 3 opposing the governor’s school-related vetoes. The Anchorage Economic Development Corp. issued a statement opposing vetoes to education, health and human services, and public safety funding. Numerous other entities have also voiced their opposition.

Without an override, the Assembly resolution says, low-income seniors will have to choose between heat, food, health care and rent; homelessness will increase by 50%; and Anchorage property taxes would have to increase by $60 per $100,000 of assessed home value. The vetoes will create “immediate and dire economic consequences, including thousands of job losses across every economic sector, a prolonged recession, and accelerated outmigration," the resolution states.

An amendment to remove such predictions failed by a 7-3 vote. Member Kameron Perez-Verdia -- a veteran of the nonprofit sector -- sponsored the amendment, saying the list “feels partisan, feels like there is a fair amount of conjecture as opposed to just stating facts” and called it unnecessary.

Several members countered that the context was important. Dunbar said Brother Francis Shelter has said that if the cuts go into effect, staff will have to reduce beds from 240 to 100 and nonprofit legal firm Alaska Legal Services Corp. will see its state funding zeroed out, cutting help for hundreds of people including domestic-violence victims.

“These sound like extreme statements but they are factual statements about extreme vetoes,” he said.

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