Cliff Groh

Cliff Groh

The House Finance Committee didn’t convene for its scheduled meeting today, the second day in a row that happened for that powerful committee. While I was sitting waiting this morning in the committee room, a legislator came in, looked at me, and said “Can you pronounce the word ‘dysfunctional?’”

As opposed to big bills moving through committees we have all kinds of private meetings full of haggling and counting of votes to go along with the delays and cancelation of meetings.

The question remains whether this special session will just fix the problems in funding the current year budget (that’s Fiscal Year 2022 or FY22 in Capitol speak) associated with the failure of the reverse sweep vote and the Governor’s vetoes or go beyond that to take big steps to address the structural deficit. It appears to be difficult to even do what I have called the One-Year Band-Aid or FY22 smallball in this special session, so that does not bode well for the even tougher task of delivering a sustainable Big Fix for the State of Alaska.

Let’s briefly review the many obstacles to the sustainable Big Fix. They include:

Alaska has the most complicated and divided fiscal politics in the United States as shown by the fact that it is best understood as five gunslingers pointing guns at each other in the cockpit of a burning airplane (you can call that the “Groh Standoff”)Gov. Dunleavy is particularly polarizing compared to other Alaska Governors

More generally, the political polarization and tribalization so prevalent around in our country has leaked into Alaska, and that set of problems is exacerbated by the rise of social media, which tends to reinforce negativity and extremism as well as major caution among legislators

Concerns over the required vote coming in November of 2022 on whether to have a constitutional convention scramble other calculations

The razor-thin nature of the majority in the House tends to slow things down, and it doesn’t help that sometimes there seem to be two caucuses within the Senate majority

Progress has been slowed by the fact that a number of legislators went to the Ted Stevens Kenai River Classic, a charity/fishing event frequented by high-rollers that has run during this special session

The outcome and ending of this special session remain up in the air. One legislator predicted late this afternoon that the special session would end between Friday, August 27, and Tuesday, August 31 (although he also told me that he has been wrong in his predictions 1,000 times this year). And I can add that the Alaska Constitution’s Article II, Section 9 states that “Special sessions are limited to thirty days.” The 30th day of this special session would be Tuesday, September 14, and this session is going slow enough that I might not write these dispatches every day.

Feel-Good Department

My two hikes this weekend generated two porcupine sightings. I remembered when I took the toughest dog I ever knew on Juneau trails and ridgelines when I lived here three decades ago. The old Alaska saying is that a dog that gets into two porcupines will never learn to stop, but that Airedale terrier made four trips to the vet with quills before finally catching on. RIP, Sadie, and perhaps your painful education can be a lesson for others.

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