BY SEN. PETER MICCICHE
Due to the large volume of correspondence I have recently received, I thought it may be helpful to share this perspective with my constituents about the current state of legislative and administrative deadlock.
Governor Dunleavy was elected by the people of Alaska back in November. In our District O on the Kenai, he won by more than a 2-1 margin. Like him or not, he is our governor and one of the most powerful in the country due to authority provided under Alaska’s Constitution. He won handily on a platform of significant budget reductions, full PFDs and tough laws designed to reduced crime…a platform similar to mine.
Since his election, battle lines have been drawn within many in the legislature on the governor’s platform issues. Things certainly could have gone smoother this session. We should have worked together more effectively to avoid running out of time on these critical issues. The lack of a plan to move forward seemed to be caused by most of the energy being directed at stopping the governor’s agenda. However, the repeal of SB91 through HB49 proved that we can pull together as a Legislature in partnership with the administration to do what is right for Alaskans.
Wednesday in Juneau, there will be a veto override attempt of the governor’s line item vetos to the FY20 operating budget. It will not be successful, partially due to the fact that there will not be 45 members in Juneau on Wednesday (the minimum required to override). At least 21 do not favor an “up or down” override and 19 will likely be in Wasilla where the governor lawfully called this special session. The courts will likely decide the legitimacy of the legislative move to Juneau unless a compromise is reached. One possible outcome could void the work done there this special session.
What does that mean for the thousands statewide and many District O constituents that have contacted me concerned about specific cuts and Wednesday’s veto overrides? The objective seems to be to further divide Alaskans, since the votes are clearly not there for a successful up-or-down override. It means that the only way out of this quagmire, is for Alaskans to demand that legislators put aside the swords of the past 6 months and sit down to work out a compromise regarding what is most important to Alaskans.
This should not be happening in July when the solutions are very limited and we are already within the next fiscal year. Without pointing fingers, a late start, deep philosophical divides and the lack of respect for each other’s views within the Legislature and between the legislature and the Dunleavy Administration has resulted in this political paralysis. This should have been resolved in April, perhaps May at the latest.
Leadership in the legislature has been resisting many of the Governor’s objectives and the Governor has been a bit “pokey” with certain legislators. All sides should claim responsibility. However, now is the time to put it all behind us for the good of Alaska. The people of Alaska expect and deserve better. They are justifiably frustrated by our ineffectiveness and petty politics.
First, I respectfully call on both sides to compromise on a meeting location for special session. Everything is more important than this issue. Although the good folks in the Valley have been wonderful and accommodating, there is an adequate compromise facility in Anchorage and it is on the road system.
Second, and for God’s sake, key legislators and the governor must sit down and negotiate on the issues keeping Alaskans apart. Both sides must be willing to listen and give an inch or two. A veto override is not the only remaining, nor most effective option.
Since the operating budget overrides are not likely to occur on Wednesday, we must work to agree on a solution that represents a livable compromise in the capital budget…the perfect compromise where both sides are somewhat equally unhappy. It is past time to get our work done this year; work that includes a funded PFD and a compromised capital budget with solutions to the reverse sweep debacle and operating budget issues.
Folks ask why I am not in Juneau or Wasilla? I asked the Senate to be excused for the commercial fishing season months back and received unanimous approval. Who dreamed that these issues would not have been settled by now?
I have explained that I will be available for meaningful key PFD and capital budget votes. Commercial fishing is important to our family’s Alaskan lifestyle and livelihood and it only happens in July. However, I will be there when my vote will make a difference toward a final solution this year. I also believe that the governor possesses the legal authority to call a session in Wasilla and that a compromise could have been negotiated prior to the split-location outcome.
On Wednesday’s veto override, folks have asked where I stand. The vote Wednesday is an “up or down” vote on the entire package. On that limited choice, I would be a “no” vote. There are reductions in that budget (such as the governor’s departmental travel budget reduction of $3.5 Million, and the reduction in the transfer from the Earnings Reserve of $5.6 Billion) that I support as well as many others.
However, there are also individual vetos I do not support (such as senior benefits, impacts on the disabled and seniors, a significant portion of the university reduction and others). When we bring folks together, we can iron out these differences, come to a reasonable compromise and meet both objectives to significantly reduce spending while preserving efficiently-delivered, necessary services for the most vulnerable Alaskans.
For those concerned about Wednesday, this is far from over and in my opinion more productive options remain. I encourage Alaskans to correspond respectfully (yes, even on Facebook), to encourage legislators like me and Governor Dunleavy to work toward getting this session completed and to continue letting us all know what is important to you. I have seen some of the comments from folks I have known for years directed at me and other legislators. Some of them are not flattering for the target or the writer and are often downright disrespectful. I am not a different Peter. I am representing the wishes of my constituents the best that I can, and working toward a balance that keeps Alaska moving forward.
We have so much more to do to build a sustainable, balanced and promising future. We must move beyond this self-imposed recession. We can no longer afford to be high-centered on the simplest tasks due to polarized ideology. Historically, Alaskans have always come together at difficult times when it has been needed most. This is clearly one of those times to move past this together and back to a state that once again makes us all proud.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this and as always, call me at 283-7996 or email [email protected] to discuss.
Sen. Peter Micciche serves District O, the Kenai Peninsula.