Full Interview: Gov. Dunleavy discusses special session, PFD
The interview above is transcribed below.
VIGIL: So governor thanks for being here.
GOVERNOR MIKE DUNLEAVY: Good to be here.
VIGIL: We appreciate your time. So the Senate failed to approve what you wanted, the $3,000 dividend. What's your reaction to that?
GOVERNOR: They did and they didn't, right?
GOVERNOR: They had a $3,000 statutory PFD in the budget to begin with, which still remains in the budget.
GOVERNOR: But with regard to the bill that they were running today, that was voted on today, was actually to reduce the PFD. So there were enough votes, 10 I believe, to amend back to the statutory PFD. But overall at this point that bill failed but we still have within the budget the statutory PFD.
VIGIL: So what's your take on that? You didn't get what you wanted today. Are you confident you're going to get $3,000. That's certainly faced some headwaters.
GOVERNOR: I am always optimistic. And I'm always hopeful that there will be a majority of folks that will follow the statutes, the law, when it comes to the permanent fund dividend. You know, people have discussed about changing it. How do you change it, etcetera. This is really not the method to change it, by short funding it or funding it out of other sources. Really if you want to have a, if you really feel that the PFD needs to be looked at, engage the people in the discussion; this summer into the fall time. Explain to them why you think the PFD needs to be changed. But the way it's happening right now, it doesn't instill confidence of the people of Alaska. So I would anticipate that will still get a statutory PFD probably sooner than later. We are running out of a little bit of time here. We're getting up close to mid-June here and we'll be hitting mid-June here in another week or so. But I think, I'm hopeful. I'm optimistic that the statutes will be followed and we'll get a full PFD.
VIGIL: So let me ask you this. So lawmakers, many say $3,000 is too much. Then we hear the $1,600 figure and then we hear a thousand dollar figure. And some say that may be about right. Is there any compromise from you? Will you back off of $3,000, say go to $2,000?
GOVERNOR: Compromise, in terms of following the law? No. We need to follow the law just like we need to follow the Constitution. My job is to execute the laws. The law on the books says that the calculation for the PFD will be a certain formula that this year spits out a $3,000, or roughly there of, PFD. If the folks again want to change the law, I would urge them strongly to engage the people of Alaska. Constitutional amendments what we've talked about, or at the very least an advisory vote. But if you don't involve the people of Alaska you're never going to have a permanent fiscal plan or stable fiscal regime. So that's the problem. And that's the problem we've had for some time.
VIGIL: So is it an all or nothing then at this point?
GOVERNOR: Follow the law?
VIGIL: Either I get $3,000 and that's it then there's no discussion.
GOVERNOR: It's not an issue, I'm just clarifying, whether I get $3,000, it's whether we follow the law. And it's my job, I took an oath to follow the constitution and carry out the laws, so it's to follow the law. And so right now the law calls for a transfer, through a calculation, that comes out to about $3,000. Once that occurs then we can have the conversation as to how we want to engage the people of Alaska moving forward on the PFD. If there's going to be any changes and how the people are going to be involved in that. This year we should be following the law.
VIGIL: So if we change things, so let's say we change things, would you accept less than $3,000?
GOVERNOR: In the future if we change things and the people of Alaska are involved in that, in some form of a vote, one way or the other, I would accept that, yes. What the people, but the people have to be involved in it. See the people never got worked up over how much the PFD was. Just, this started a couple years ago when the previous administration vetoed the PFD. But prior to that if it was $500, $700, $900 it was never an issue because the people of Alaska believed that the calculation was the law. And there was a rules based approached to the PFD. Once that veto took place, by the former governor, the people of Alaska got engaged, the got upset because they feel, they felt that it was working well until politicians put their fingers in it. So really the only way to fix this thing is involve the people of Alaska.
VIGIL: So where do we go from here then? I mean, let me ask you this, What responsibility do you think you have as far as this gridlock goes? What's your role in making a deal happen?
GOVERNOR: Again there should be no gridlock.
VIGIL: But there is, period, so how do we get out of it?
GOVERNOR: I would say that you have a very diverse state with a number of different views on the PFD. But one thing is certain I believe the more majority of Alaskans and the majority of legislators believe that the PFD calculation should follow the law. Again my job is to execute the law, carry out the law, follow the law. And that's all we're asking of the House and the Senate. Again the Senate did that in their budget. So with the failure of this, or the lack of passage of this bill the call for the statutory PFD still exists within the budget. So if they move the budget forward and the house concurs then we're done we're out of here.
VIGIL: What would you say to the people who promised a full dividend, if this doesn't work, there's gridlock and it continues and we don't get a deal done, those folks out there who said I want that, that's what you told me I'm going to get, we're not getting it. What would you say to those people?
GOVERNOR: We're going to continue to insist that the laws be followed. And that the rules bases process for the PFD be followed.
VIGIL: So will we have another special session if we don't get a deal by next week?
GOVERNOR: We'll have to cross that bridge when we come to it. I don't want to speculate at this point. We might possibly. But I'm hopeful at this point through this process, and again it's still in the budget, that the law will be followed and the calculation will come out as a roughly $3,000 PFD.
VIGIL: OK. So when do you expect this to end?
GOVERNOR: When they agree and vote on it, Joe. I'm hoping it's going to end sooner than later. Again I think that people understand we're running out of time, that we need a budget put in place and that again we have $19 billion in the earnings reserve, the calculation is set in law, just need to vote on the budget that has a $3,000 calculated PFD within it. Or a separate bill that has the calculations in it again, the $3,000 that's the statutes old, decades old statutes, and just vote in it and send it over to the house so they can vote on it.
VIGIL: Let me ask you one more thing, public safety, we had the U.S. Attorney General here last week who talked about an emergency situation with public safety. We’ve heard about VPSO and how people to work hours if not days. You know that. We've all heard that for many years. But yet we still want the $3,000 PFD, your response to that. I mean some people feel they're not getting the services they need. But yet we want to go up here with the PFD.
GOVERNOR: Two separate issues. And the PFD did not cause a spike in crime. It's not the PFD. The PFD I think is being used an, or the crime is being used potentially the size of government's being used as an excuse to take the PFD or not follow the law. They're two separate issues. We certainly have a public safety issues in the state of Alaska that's why we were insistent that that be job number one to pass the bill that was passed that incorporated the initiatives that we have put forth. That would be HB 49 that passed. We need to work on our public safety issues. We've had public safety issues here for the last few years. I mean Anchorage is not becoming a safer city for example. And it has nothing to do with the PFD. The PFD is a totally separate issue. PFD is imbedded in law. Our public safety issues are multifaceted. But we're bound and determined to get those issues, the public safety issue, under control as well.
VIGIL: But can we afford this PFD while we're still looking for these services where some people aren't getting public safety services?
GOVERNOR: I think it's a matter of priorities. And my administration is prioritizing public safety. That was the first step in passing of this bill, HB 49, which combined the elements of our bills. But now we also have to work towards making sure we get boots on the ground in terms of public safety officers, troopers, we have to work with different agencies and municipalities such as the municipality of Anchorage and the federal government and how we're going to come together have a comprehensive and cohesive approach to public safety. Again, it's not the PFD that's the problem. It's making sure we make public safety job number one. And that's the intent of this administration.
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