“Smaller doesn’t necessarily mean unconstitutional”: Governor Dunleavy defends vetoes

Governor Mike Dunleavy called a press conference this afternoon in Anchorage, to be followed by a cabinet meeting.
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy held a press conference followed by a cabinet meeting at 2 p.m. Monday. This comes after Dunleavy vetoed over $400 million from the operating budget and in the midst of a politically and geographically divided legislature.

Watch the full press conference here.

Dunleavy began the conference by laying out what he saw as a political fork in the road for Alaskans in terms of making up the budget deficit without draining the Constitutional Budget Reserve.

“It’s as if the car is idling and deciding what side it’s gonna go down -- what fork it’s gonna go down,” he said, “Last year there was an attempt to go down the multiple tax fork and the continued spend fork, and the take the PFD fork. The folks in the car didn’t really want to go down there.”

The governor stuck to his guns with reinstating a full PFD, saying "We'll see how it pans out."

While acknowledging “difficult decisions” with the vetoes, the governor argued that the new revenue and investment that is being brought into Alaska will pay dividends in the future by filling state coffers with oil production taxes. Dunleavy said that the state has “$5.5 billion in investment on the North Slope -- private investment” that came in this year, which he expects will bring in about 100,000 barrels of oil in the next several years. He argues this kind of private investment will eventually offset the budget deficit.

But when pressed on cuts to services that have already had to downsize their operations, such as the Brother Francis Shelter in Anchorage, Dunleavy said that those were concerns that would have to be dealt with locally.

“There are ways for the city of Anchorage to raise revenues too,” he said, adding that the state should focus on its constitutionally-mandated responsibilities such as natural resources and education.

Dunleavy was then pressed on his campaign promise of no new taxes, which he said was a promise of no new state taxes.

“It may translate into a new tax at a local level,” he said of the vetoes.

In regards to the budget cuts to the University of Alaska, Dunleavy said that he had heard from many people, including students at the university, who say they understand the need for the proposed cuts.

The governor also acknowledged he has been in discussions with UA President Jim Johnsen, saying he believes that “The president [Jim Johnsen] even recognizes this, and I think the Regents recognize this as well.”

Dunleavy said that he met with Johnsen on Friday and they have another meeting scheduled for Wednesday.

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