Dunleavy talks budget, crime, PFD in first State of the State
Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Tuesday used his first State of the State address to tout three constitutional amendment proposals, while promising to roll out a public safety plan and produce an “honest budget.”
The Wasilla Republican delivered his speech before the fully operating Senate, as well as a House that has yet to formally establish a majority with the Legislature in its second week of the session.
In a steady, unhurried 24-minute delivery, Dunleavy told lawmakers how next week he will introduce three constitutional amendments.
- Establishing a spending limit and a spending plan he says will allow the state to save excess revenue.
- No changes to the statutory formula that determines the Permanent Fund Dividend. Each of the last three years former Gov. Bill Walker and the Legislature approved a fixed sum.
- Calling for no change in taxes without a vote of from Alaska residents. Fellow Mat-Su Borough lawmaker Rep. George Rauscher has a similar bill.
“The people are the key to a permanent fiscal plan,” Dunleavy said. “Without the people’s support, any plan put in place by the Legislature will always be in doubt.”
But before these amendment proposals can go for a vote, two-thirds of the House and Senate each must approve them. That’s 27 in the House and 14 in the Senate.
"If oil ran out or if we had a terrorist attack on the line, or if it all came to a halt, we would be spending all of our savings and with the constitutional amendment we would be giving whatever we had to a PFD check, and how do would we operate," said House Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks..
Dunleavy also pledged a new approach to budgeting, calling the current process “a mess.” He and the Legislature face a $1.6 billion deficit. Lawmakers still await his amended budget, which must be introduced to the Legislature by Feb. 13.
“The days of creating a wish-list budget, where Alaska is more like a reality show -- make a wish, have your dream come true -- that just isn’t real life,” he said.
“Where anything and everything is just too important not to fund, and where politicians spend their time looking for ways for you to pay for it? Those days have got to be over. We can no longer spend what we don’t have."
“We are now preparing a budget that for the first time, all Alaskans will be able to understand and trust. No more games, no more shuffling numbers. Just an honest, straightforward look at where we are.
“While no one person is to blame, Alaskans will quickly see that we’ve been spending wildly beyond our means for years. Our children and grandchildren deserve better.”
Meanwhile, lawmakers are anxious to see Dunleavy's budget.
"For our state to truly address crime, support a strong education system, maintain the health of our citizens, and create hope and opportunity, we need a budget that meets our constitutional obligations," said Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich (D-Anchorage) in a prepared statement. "I hope his does."
House Democrats also issued a prepared response to Dunleavy's speech.
“The vision for Alaska that Governor Dunleavy outlined tonight prompts a lot of questions about the impacts to all Alaskans," said House Speaker Pro Tempore Neal Foster (D-Nome). "Huge cuts to essential services, on top of the extensive cuts already made in recent years, are concerning. I need more information to judge these proposals and look forward to hearing from administration officials in the coming days.”
Dunleavy said he will roll out a public safety package Wednesday centered around repealing criminal justice reform measure Senate Bill 91, as he promised a renewed focus on fighting crime.
He and many state lawmakers ran campaigns on rewriting public safety laws and closing sentencing loopholes, including a few that gained national attention.
"To our legislators, I’m asking you to make public safety a priority and move forward with due diligence on reviewing and considering this public safety package," Dunleavy said. "To law-abiding Alaskans, I say this to you: I care if your house is burglarized. I care if your car is stolen. And I care if your loved ones are threatened.
But to the criminals, and to the rapists and molesters who see women and children as nothing more than opportunities, I say this to you: We will do everything in our power to stop you, apprehend you, and put you in prison for a very long time."
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