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May 31, 2019
It’s Time to End the Politics and Govern
The Alaska Legislature is just over two weeks into the special session, and there is a lot of work still to do. However, we took a big step towards making Alaska a safer place by passing legislation to repeal and replace Senate Bill 91. Now we need to finalize a budget and address the size of this year’s Permanent Fund dividend.
House and Senate leadership teams and Governor Dunleavy are in negotiations to reach an acceptable compromise. My advice for everyone involved is to ignore the partisanship of today’s political landscape and instead focus on governing the great State of Alaska. After all, that’s what the people elected us to do.
Reps. Chris Tuck and Andy Josephson discussing the compromise criminal justice reform bill shortly before final concurrence in the Alaska House of Representatives on May 20, 2019.
Pass the Budget and Keep Alaska Open for Business
In Alaska, summer is the busy season. With millions of tourists and tens of millions of salmon on their way, the next three months are vital to the Alaska economy. The last thing we need is a politically motivated state government shutdown that will stop the essential state services that keep it all moving.
Without a passed and signed budget, the state government will shut down on July 1. That means airports will close, and the fish won’t get counted. A government shutdown potentially means fewer State Troopers to respond to emergencies and the loss of healthcare for thousands of our friends and neighbors. That’s just not acceptable.
Don’t be discouraged – there is hope. I am starting to see some urgency from the Governor’s office on the need for compromise. I’m optimistic that we can reach a budget deal to avert a government shutdown. It’s not going to be easy, but I think there is broad agreement that its time put aside the politics that divide us and instead focus on the things that unite us as Alaskans. Once we do that, it will become abundantly clear that it’s in the best interest of everyone to keep Alaska open for business by avoiding a government shutdown.
Jeopardizing Our Children’s Future is the Worst Kind of Politics
I am greatly disturbed by Governor Dunleavy’s threat to withhold over a billion dollars in funding for Alaska’s public schools. The Alaska Constitution gives the legislature the power to appropriate state money, and that’s exactly what we did last year when we forward funded public education for fiscal year 2020. For some reason, the governor is breaking with tradition, well established legal precedent, and his own party in refusing to release the money to school districts. I certainly hope it’s not for political gain because jeopardizing our children’s future is the worst kind of politics.
The dispute over education funding is a separation of powers issue between the executive and legislative branches of government. That’s why the members of the House and Senate voted this week to explore the possibility of filing a lawsuit if Governor Dunleavy goes through with his threat to withhold the education funding.
This entire issue is unfortunate because our goal in forward funding public education was to give school districts budget certainty, which helps them keep and retain good teachers. Instead, the entire education sector is faced with continued budget uncertainty. I remain hopeful that a compromise can be reached. However, one thing is for sure, Alaska’s children, parents, and teachers are watching and will hold accountable anyone playing politics with their future.
I’m here for you, so please keep in touch on matters important to you and your family!
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