GAMESMANSHIP? REP. CHRIS TUCK WANTS SPECIAL SESSION
Rep. Chris Tuck, Democrat chair of the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, made a game-day decision on Wednesday and canceled the committee meeting he had scheduled several days prior — it was a meeting in which he was likely to be outvoted on getting federal funding out to Alaska municipalities and businesses.
He had already blocked progress on Friday on things like $290 million for small-business relief, and $586 million for support of local governments.
The response from Republican lawmakers was shock. The Alaska treasury has had the funds and the governor’s plan to get it out to where it belongs for more than two weeks. Businesses are starting to close permanently because the aid is too slow in coming.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Wednesday said the funds came to the state on April 20, and he had the plan to distribute them in front of the legislative committee on April 21.
But Tuck wanted a more detailed plan for the business and municipal spending. The Office of Management and Budget gave it to him the next day — April 22.
But last Friday when the committee met, it only acted on the funds that would go to state agencies. The grants and loans to businesses and municipalities are being held up by Tuck, who wants the entire Legislature to convene, possibly to try to politicize the funding. Tuck is demanding that the governor call a special session, although the Legislature is technically still in session until May 21 because it has not gaveled out “sine die.”
Fifteen days have passed since the committee has had the plan.
House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt said the committee’s continued delays on COVID-19 and CARES Act relief funding is unconscionable.
“The laundry list of Alaskan businesses shutting down is growing every day. Governor Dunleavy has laid out a plan to get money into Alaskans’ hands as expeditiously as possible. The Legislative Budget & Audit Committee only needs to approve this distribution to get money to Alaskans immediately.”
“Businesses are shutting down, Alaskans are struggling, we don’t have weeks to figure this out. The RPL process is the fastest way to get relief into the hands of Alaskans,” Pruitt said. “LB&A can accelerate this process; we join other Legislators in calling for swift action.”
The Legislature is currently under the 24-hour rule, allowing LB&A to meet at any time to approve the funding, he said.
“Personal agendas need to be set aside, Alaskans need to know they are the priority. No more delays; approve the money now,” Rep. Lance Pruitt
“We need this money in the hands of these entities now. We’re asking that the Legislature, the LB&A committee, move quickly on this,” Gov. Dunleavy said during a press availability on Wednesday.
Other Republicans observed that this is a “consequence moment.”
“The reason Tuck has control over the funds is because Republicans like Representatives Jennifer Johnston, Gary Knopp, Chuck Kopp, and Louise Stutes, made Tuck powerful. Power is a dangerous thing,” said a legislative aide on condition on anonymity. “Tuck now has the lives of all Alaskans in his hands.”
Tuck represents District 23, Anchorage. Connie Dougherty, a Republican, has filed to oppose him in November.