BREAKTHROUGH? GOVERNOR AGREES TO AMEND CALL TO INCLUDE SOME CAPITAL BUDGET ITEMS
Senate Majority Leader Mia Costello and House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt today asked Gov. Michael Dunleavy to add federal match dollars for airport and highway projects in the Department of Transportation capital budget to the call for the second legislative special session.
“The members of the Alaska House and Senate who are supporting the constitutional call in Wasilla believe we have found a solution to this challenge. To help keep our state moving forward, we respectfully request that you add ‘state general fund match for airports and road programs in DOT&PF’ to your proclamation calling the legislature into special session on July 8th, 2019.
“With this language added to the call, we will be able to successfully fund these critical projects while we address the matter of the permanent fund dividend which you have placed on the call. We hope that you will give our request full consideration,” Costello and Pruitt wrote.
Late Friday, they got their answer: Gov. Dunleavy has agreed to amend his call for special session, on the condition the Legislature meets in Wasilla on Monday:
“At this point, the legislature needs to understand that the only path to a solution involves working with the governor and each other,” said Sen. Costello. “I hope that when the legislature arrives in Wasilla on Monday, that they’ll be ready to address the issues that Alaskans need addressed, such as funding for roads and infrastructure, and the PFD.”
Earlier today, Sen. Costello announced publicly that she would be attending the special session in Wasilla.
How many legislators will go to Wasilla, and how many to Juneau is still up in the air. At least 16 Republicans in the House plan to go to Wasilla, where Gov. Dunleavy has called the special session, and about six in the Senate will as well. Democrats in the House, and a handful of Republicans who collaborate with them may end up in Juneau, where Speaker Bryce Edgmon and Senate President Cathy Giessel say they will convene the Senate because they don’t want to go to Wasilla.
A private citizen spoke to Must Read Alaska today and is planning to ask for a legal injunction against the Juneau venue, because Gov. Dunleavy named Wasilla as the location of the second special session, and some view the Juneau decision as contrary to law.
“Roads are crucial to our economy, and we simply cannot allow legislative gridlock to jeopardize our roads.” said Rep. Pruitt. “I hope the governor will act on our request quickly and that our colleagues in the Senate will recognize the urgent need to come together in Wasilla to ensure that our road funding is secure.”
Sen. Mike Shower, of Wasilla, said, “I’m encouraged that our leaders are willing to put important road and infrastructure projects before politics. I look forward to supporting these projects during our upcoming special session.”
Even freshman legislator Rep. Kelly Merrick of Eagle River praised the effort to get some of the more critical capital spending projects onto the call, to relieve the stresses on those in the building trades. The deadline on many of those projects is around the end of July for work that will proceed in 2021.
“I encourage Governor Dunleavy to add this to the call for the second special session,” Merrick said. “These projects are crucial for Alaskans, and will provide jobs, economic growth, and ensure the safety of our families.”
Monday is the start date for the second special session, but at this point it looks like the Legislature is split on whether to honor the statute, which gives the governor the authority to name the venue.
Must Read Alaska has also learned that those going to Juneau will attempt to override the governor’s vetoes as early as Tuesday, but they’ll be missing at least 22 members, who will be convening at Wasilla Middle School. The Legislature needs 45 of 60 members to override the governor’s vetoes.