‘They want you to capitulate:’ Gov. Dunleavy rallies supporters for a full PFD

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WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - Amid a critical time in the Legislature, Gov. Mike Dunleavy held a rally in Wasilla, calling on lawmakers to pass a full statutory Permanent Fund dividend.

Despite ongoing debates in Juneau about the size of the 2019 dividend, the governor made clear that he is not interested in compromise.

“They’re not talking about compromising, they’re talking about capitulation,” he said. “They want you to capitulate and move so far to that side that you no longer recognize who you are or who you represent, quite frankly, I refuse to do that.”

The line elicited the loudest applause of the evening from the roughly 300 people who came to the rally at Everett’s Mat-Su Resort on the shore of Wasilla Lake.

The rally is part of a campaign to encourage Alaskans to participate in the political process and advance the governor’s agenda.

The event cost the governor’s office around $2,500 to hire the venue, book audio-visual equipment and buy light refreshments, according to Matt Shuckerow, the governor’s press secretary.

That figure is on top of $4,830 the governor’s office has spent on social media advertising through a page called “Restore the PFD.”

Jeremy Price, the governor’s deputy chief of staff, said the campaign was part of “unique tactics” that include text messages and emails sent to Alaskans encouraging them to contact their legislators. Price said 36,000 emails have been sent to legislators this session but didn’t reference how that figure was recorded.

“We are almost there, we can see the goal line but we haven’t got the ball over yet,” said Price.

A slew of conservatives took to the stage to introduce the governor and warm up the crowd.

Former talkback radio host and current member of the Dunleavy administration Rick Rydell said the governor was living up to his campaign promises to repeal Senate Bill 91, deliver an honest budget and see a full dividend.

Ann Brown, the vice chair of the Alaska Republican Party, echoed that idea: “Elections have consequences,” she said to applause.

The delegation of legislators from the Matanuska-Susitna Valley sent video messages to the rally in support of a full Permanent Fund dividend. Dunleavy encouraged audience members to contact legislators who want a $3,000 PFD and thank them.

He then said people needed to contact legislators who don’t support a full dividend and be “respectful” when trying to change their minds.

In the Senate, legislation that would deliver a roughly $3,000 PFD narrowly failed to pass Tuesday morning. The bill could be voted on again next week when two senators return to Juneau.

The House majority caucus remains publicly unsupportive of the idea of a full PFD. Members say they formed a caucus based on the idea of a responsible budget and a sustainable dividend.

“The campaign to discuss the PFD in isolation — separate from how we will pay for schools, Pioneer Homes, and other critical services — fails to take the entire picture into consideration,” wrote House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, in an email. “We remain committed to passing a balanced budget and a sustainable PFD for tomorrow’s generation while having an honest conversation with Alaskans.”

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