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Alaska Legislature At Odds Over State Spending

Jul 10, 2019
Originally published on July 11, 2019 1:34 pm
Copyright 2019 Alaska Public Media. To see more, visit Alaska Public Media.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

An old saying holds that where you sit determines where you stand. For Alaska's Legislature, it's different - where they stand is shown by where they meet, in two places hundreds of miles apart. Here's Andrew Kitchenman of Alaska Public Media.

ANDREW KITCHENMAN, BYLINE: Republican Governor Mike Dunleavy ordered the Legislature into a special session on Monday, but most lawmakers decided not to go where Dunleavy called them in the session, his hometown of Wasilla; instead, they met in the state capital of Juneau. Senate President Cathy Giessel says there's enough lawmakers in Juneau to do business.

CATHY GIESSEL: Government is perking along, as it should, in the seat of government, which is also identified in the Constitution.

KITCHENMAN: A minority of 21 Republicans went to the gym in Wasilla Middle School, obeying the governor's call. The split reflects a division within state Republicans over whether every person in Alaska should be paid roughly $3,000 this year from a state investment fund built on Alaska's oil wealth. Paying the full amount requires deep cuts to state services. The lawmakers in Juneau want to override vetoes Dunleavy made to the budget they passed. The vetoes include cutting 41% of state funding for the University of Alaska.

Dunleavy was elected on a campaign pledge to make the full payments, known as permanent fund dividends. The previous governor and the Legislature reduced the annual payments to balance the budget. Supporters of Dunleavy cheered on the legislators in Wasilla. Steven VinZant said at a roadside rally that the governor should declare the seats of legislators in Juneau vacant.

STEVEN VINZANT: When you walk off the job, you don't have a job. The job is over here in the middle school. And several of the people who work for the state of Alaska decided that they were going to jump on a plane and just go clean out their desks in Juneau.

KITCHENMAN: The legislators in Juneau are scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to override the vetoes. But without the lawmakers in Wasilla, they won't have enough votes.

For NPR News, I'm Andrew Kitchenman, in Juneau. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.