Dunleavy defends vetoes, longstanding pursuits for full PFD
Gov. Mike Dunleavy said on Tuesday there is a broader role for Alaskans to help reduce the state’s annual budget gap.
Dunleavy defended his second round of vetoes saying the state has made significant progress with addressing a $1.6 billion deficit.
The vetoes include $30 million for community assistance, $5 million for the Alaska Marine Highway System and $7.4 million in adult public assistance.
Since Dunleavy first rolled out an amended budget on Feb. 13, municipalities and boroughs have long worried about whether Dunleavy is simply shifting costs rather than cutting state spending.
“One of the underlying themes that I find very distressing about what the governor is doing is that he seems to divorce the state of Alaska from the people of Alaska,” said Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. “When I hear how things need to be borne by local government, there wasn’t a transition plan, there wasn’t a discussion with local government about how we can do these things.”
Berkowitz said he and his staff are still assessing how the budget cuts could affect Anchorage.
Dunleavy, however, told reporters solving the budget requires collaboration.
“Right now the mother ship, the state of Alaska, is shouldering the costs for a lot of things that are occurring at the municipal level,” he said. “As we move forward and we’re trying to reduce this budget, we’re all going to have a discussion as how we’re going to address this, how we’re going to approach the idea of coming up with a sustainable permanent plan moving forward.”
Dunleavy also vetoed more than $77 million for Medicaid coverages, including adult enhanced dental services.
Becky Hultberg, president and CEO of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association said she was “not surprised, but disappointed that the governor again made these harmful vetoes.”
“Since Medicaid is a statutory program, benefits must be paid,” she said. “This is essentially an unallocated cut with no plan to achieve the target savings. It’s an action based on a wish and a hope, rather than on thoughtful analysis. That’s not good governance. It’s been clear since the governor introduced his budget that the administration has unrealistic targets for Medicaid, and his action means that a Medicaid supplemental will almost certainly be required in this budget year.”
Dunleavy did allow some of the restored funding to remain untouched. This included $20 million for the Senior Benefits Payment Program and an $800,000 supplemental appropriation to cover a shortfall that caused a lower-tiered eligible seniors to lose checks May and June.
Dunleavy approved the Legislature’s appropriation for a $1,600 dividend, but not because he agreed with HB 2001. He didn’t want Alaskans to have no check this fall.
He said he hasn’t given up and he will call a special session this fall for lawmakers to address what he believes would be the balance of a PFD under the statutory formula, or about another $1,400.
Dunleavy says with all of the heavy lifting — crime and budget bills — complete, lawmakers can focus on a single topic.
Leading lawmakers have been willing to fund the remaining $1,400, but not without a statutory calculation change so the debate doesn’t require additional special sessions in coming years.
Dunleavy said, as he has all year, that he wants a full PFD first, then work can begin on statutory or constitutional changes.
“It’s my hope that when we put this special session together that we can focus on dealing with the full statutory PFD,” Dunleavy said. “If people want to have discussions on a potential statute change and constitutional amendment, but first and foremost we need to complete this incomplete dividend.”
The dates for the third special session have not yet been announced.
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