Tempers flare: 'Not going to play stupid' remark riles committee as it releases federal funds to Alaska - Must Read Alaska
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Saturday, November 28, 2020
HomePoliticsTempers flare: ‘Not going to play stupid’ remark riles committee as it releases federal funds to Alaska

Tempers flare: ‘Not going to play stupid’ remark riles committee as it releases federal funds to Alaska

COMMITTEE SQUABBLES, THEN ROLLS CHAIRMAN, MOVES MONEY

A billion dollars that had been held up for weeks by the chairman of the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee was released to be distributed throughout Alaska as part of the COVID-19 disaster response.

The funds include $568 million for communities, $100 million for fishers and fishing businesses, and $289 million for Alaska’s smaller businesses — those with under 50 employees, specifically those that have not been able to get any of the millions in federal dollars that have been made available through the Small Business Administration.

The Alaska Housing Finance Corporation received $10 million to help prevent homelessness, and airports will get $52 million to help them pay the bills while air travel continues to be depressed.

The committee discussed — sometimes heatedly — for hours whether it was proper to simply approve the governor’s spending plan, which all seemed to think was basically acceptable, or whether the entire Legislature should convene to discuss the plan. That was the position argued by LB&A Chair Chris Tuck, and two members, Reps. Andy Josephson and Ivy Spohnholz, along with alternate member Sen. Bill Wielechowski. They seemed to want more money spent on preventing homelessness and less for small businesses. But Sen. Natasha von Imhof explained to them, with what seemed like controlled patience, that by helping small businesses pay their workers, they would be helping those workers pay rents and mortgages.

The Legislature’s attorney said the committee was on shaky legal grounds and advised the entire matter could end up in court.

Rep. Ivy Spohnholz

“We could have had our cake and eaten it too,” Spohnholz said, expressing disappointment that the Legislature was ceding its appropriation authority to the governor, who she has worked to remove via a recall election. It was about power and whether the governor should have that much power in a system where he already has a lot of power. She was arguing that the Legislature could have gotten credit for the appropriation, rather than the governor.

“It’s a precedent, a paved pathway for him to work around,” in the future, Spohnholz said.

Senate President Cathy Giessel, a member of the committee, was having none of that.

“We’re worried about whether the legislature gets to eat cake? Or fighting for power while communities are suffering? We are not giving up any appropriation authority. We have offered the administration, in many of these (budget items) revisions,” she said.

The governor has taken revisions suggested by the small business community. Instead of using $300 million for forgivable loans to small businesses suffering from the COVID economy, he agreed to make it a grant program, in recognition that many small businesses may never be able to pay back loans at this stage of the economic meltdown.

But three of the committee members and Sen. Bill Wielechowski, an alternate member of the committee argued that someone might sue over the constitutionality of the committee signing off on an appropriation that large. They also didn’t think some communities will spend the money wisely.

Josephson went on to say it was not the Legislature that was delaying the funds, but the governor.

“It’s the Dunleavy Administration who is dawdling.” Josephson said. “We are abrogating our legal authority.”

At one point, Sen. Lyman Hoffman and Committee Chair Tuck began talking loudly over each other after Tuck sputtered, “I am not going to play stupid to get along with people.” He soon called for an at-ease to cool off, and later clarified that he did not consider any other committee member to be stupid, but Hoffman was apparently offended, saying it came across that way.

Rep. Andy Josephson

The arguments from Tuck, Wielechowski, Josephson, and Spohnolz continued, even though they clearly did not have the votes to change the outcome. They were trying to convince the committee majority to force the entire Legislature to Juneau to debate, under the threat of a lawsuit.

“Carpenters work with wood. Cooks work with food. Legislators appropriate. That’s what we do,” Josephson, who is an attorney, said.

In the end, the vote was 7-3; Wielechowski is not a voting member of the committee and only participated in the debate.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Are you sure Representative Spohnholz didn’t say let them eat cake?
    .
    At least they finally did what they should have done long ago, even against their own objections.

  • Poison Ivy is so deranged and full of hate. For her, it’s only about Democrats being in charge of the $$$$$. Who would listen to this little uneducated twittie?

    • “Eat your cake, and have it too,” Dummy. Or, dyslexic. Or, both.

  • Wow. These people are Complete caricatures of themselves. The article paints the accurate picture of the demented sitcom this legislature actually is. The egotists, the blow hards, the corrupt bastards, the elitist snobs, the rubes.. the petty and the pathetic.. it’s all there. The total lack of self awareness on the part of these people, is only matched by the complete apathy of their constituents who keep voting them in. This ship of fools will sink this state if the people continue to sit idly by and let these hapless, gutless losers deal away our future.

  • I would like to know if Representatives Johnston and Kopp support the views of the committee chair that they have installed or the plan proposed by the Governor. Simple question.

  • Just when we thought we’ve seen enough BS out of the leftists (both D’s and R’s) in the legislature, along comes crap like this. We’re being ruled by a bunch of children. Petulant, spoiled rotten bunch of brat little children. These clowns have got to go. All of them.

  • Basically, this committee admitted what we’ve accused the legislature of, they are anti-governor. In fact, they are so busy trying to foil the efforts of the Governor, that they’ve forgotten to support their constituencies, possibly forgotten that there IS a constituency. Oh, and by the way, we’ve noticed. Most of you are gone.

  • Fire them all and replace them with first time legislators and we will be better off. What the article does not show is how much of the cake does each legislator get. Follow the money.

    • How many of their “friends” are they wanting to bless with this money? How many “new friends” can they make with it? How much of it can they give to their base?
      Indeed, follow the money!

  • Let’s remember all this next election. Rhinos and dems should be history.

  • Tuck sputtered, “I am not going to play stupid to get along with people.”
    “Stupid is as stupid does.”

    • He doesn’t have to play at being stupid.

  • In November we Alaskans can begin cleaning out the lawless from what used to be OUR legislature. If we don’t – if a single one of these “elites” remains in office, then we Alaskans who get to wear the “STUPID” hats.

  • Where have we heard this before? “I don’t think that some of these communities would spend this money wisely!” Your job is to appropriate the money, and in a timely and responsible manner, these businesses in these communities need it to survive, they don’t need you policing them on how they use it!!! Get off your high horse and do your job! If you ask me, I see no wisdom in any of you people, how in the heck can you people sleep at night?!!!

  • Dear Susan , thanks for your effort in producing “Must Read Alaska”. What an amazing bundle of effort. A conversation with you would save a lot a phone calls, as information is needed to determine the support PEBBLE MINE actually has in State Gov’t. A call the Jennifer Johnson only produced an answer from a staffer who’s quote, ” PEBBLE is a ‘copper mine’ not a gold mine ” has at least a load of being disingenuous . There is little doubt in the State Constituency Mind that PEBBLE is Gold-en for Alaska. With a legislature so talented at “playing stupid” this mealy mouth waffle permeates Juneau. After nonsense campaign promises to protect a ” Permanent Fund ” from virtually any elected dingbat, you have to wonder if any of elected dingbats have a measure of integrity and would gladly bad mouth PEBBLE with misinformation to assuage support from a fish-green-native-purist constituency. Witness a “to young to vote” Alaskan being stripped of PFDs to support a corpuscular educational system, also devoid of integrity, that fails young and generations to come. Should you find time please contact and enlighten as to dingbat members who have actual integrity in supporting PEBBLE. A side order – support moving a Juneau capital to BETHEL, see how many cars would be shipped there and how often the dingbats would re-re-reconvene there for a weekly per-Diem equivalent of multiple tax-free per-Diem’s Permanent Fund Dividend.

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