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Alaska Legislature

Alaska Gov. Dunleavy signs state budget but delays announcing vetoes

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy signs the state budget on Wednesday, June 30, 2021 at his office in Anchorage. (Photo courtesy governor's office)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy quietly signed Alaska’s multibillion-dollar state budget into law Wednesday, eliminating the possibility of statewide government shutdown after the Legislature reached a deal earlier this week.

Dunleavy did not release a copy of the budget at the time of his signing, so it’s not yet known what he may have vetoed. A copy of the governor-revised budget also was unavailable Wednesday from legislative clerks, who said they had not received a signed copy by 5 p.m., when their offices closed.

Copies will be available Thursday morning, and the governor has scheduled an announcement for that day. Leaders of the majority and minority blocs in the House and Senate said they didn’t know what the governor had done but that he had scheduled a call at 9:30 a.m. Thursday to discuss it with them.

Dunleavy spokesman Jeff Turner said by email that “a thorough review of the spending plan and the work necessary to prepare for an announcement about any potential vetoes takes time.”

He said he did not have a copy of the budget to share with the Daily News.

“Tomorrow, I will share with Alaskans my changes to the spending plan,” Dunleavy said on his social media accounts.

In the first two years of his term, Dunleavy vetoed hundreds of millions of dollars from the state budget, though many of those vetoes were later reversed in supplemental budgets. Dunleavy announced those moves, as had prior governors, in news conferences.

Alaska lawmakers said the delay is unprecedented.

“It seems rather absurd, after all we just went through, that he wouldn’t release a budget that he’s signed,” said Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, D-Anchorage.

Begich said he’s been around the state Capitol since 1983 — first as an aide, then as a legislator — “and I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, said it was “very strange” and was unaware of a prior precedent.

“He should be letting us know,” Stevens said.

The “key thing” to watch for in the veto announcement, Stevens said, “is going to be the PFD. I wouldn’t be surprised if he vetoed it.”

This year’s budget contains a $1,100 dividend, but Republicans in the state House and Senate voted against using money from state savings accounts to pay for that dividend and other parts of the budget. Without a re-vote, the dividend would be reduced to $525.

Lawmakers are already expected to reconsider the dividend amount and future years’ dividends during a special session in late summer or early fall. Vetoing the dividend would further encourage lawmakers to return to session and address the partially funded budget.

Wednesday’s signing comes after the Legislature narrowly averted a government shutdown.

Alaska’s House and Senate approved the budget in mid-June, but Dunleavy said it was “defective” and unconstitutional because the House had failed to approve a clause that allows the budget to take effect July 1.

Members of the multiparty coalition in control of the House said the governor’s interpretation was incorrect and he could have signed the budget. Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor has sued a legislative agency in an attempt to force a state judge to decide.

That lawsuit is still pending, but in the meantime, the House’s coalition majority on Monday reached a deal with the House’s Republican minority. Five members of the minority agreed to vote in favor of the timing clause in exchange for the creation of a bicameral, nonpartisan working group.

The new working group has been ordered to come up with a long-term state fiscal plan before the special session later this year.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Sen. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, voted against using money from various savings accounts to pay for the dividend. Kawasaki voted with Senate Republicans on other dividend-related matters but not that issue.


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