There is no question that the vetoes Gov. Dunleavy has handed down are going to devastate the state of Alaska. These budget reductions he has done will be felt across the state and will negatively harm Alaskans and especially those living in rural Alaska. I do not support these reductions because they were not necessary and will cripple our state especially in regards to higher education.
The question is why did the governor implement these reductions in the first place? The reason for these reductions was to show his base in the Mat-Su Valley, especially, that he is going to fight to implement his campaign promises, no matter how politically unrealistic those promises were. And because his base is extreme, he has to show them how extreme he can be in service to them. What this means is that he will continue to go to war with those members of the legislature who continue to resist his agenda.
It also means that what happened this year with the budget reductions is only going to get worse next year. Because the legislature did not stand up to Dunleavy and reverse the vetoes, he will be empowered to take more extreme measures because he believes he cannot be stopped. This is going to be a long four years, and those in the legislature who are fighting the governor need to hang in there because things will get worse before they get better. With the present special session the governor and his team have lost the respect of the House and Senate leadership.
The leadership of both bodies is going to continue working on getting legislation to the governor for a $1,600 dollar dividend. Most likely in the next few weeks a bill will be sent to his desk with that amount and the governor will veto it. Since he is not going to get the $3,000 amount he wants through this special session, he is most likely going to call another one. The outcome will be the same for him and his legislative allies who are meeting in Wasilla. At that point he is going to accept legislation with a lower dividend amount and sign it into law, and then blame the legislature for the failure to get him what he asked for.
Or, the other option he has is to veto such legislation, and then blame the failure to send Alaskans his promised dividend on the legislature. Either outcome will put the governor in the position of campaigning next year against legislators on both sides of the aisle who did not stand with him. For Speaker Bryce Edgmon and President Cathy Giessel this means that they must prepare those in their majorities for a tough campaign season next year.
It is important, especially for the Senate Majority, that Cathy Giessel begin laying the groundwork for a robust defense of her caucus members. Members of the Mat-Su delegation in the Senate, in conjunction with the governor’s staff, will be recruiting primary challengers for their colleagues. The discussions are probably taking place now and phone calls are being made. It is important for Giessel to ensure that her more reasonable colleagues prevail, otherwise there will be further harm to the state if the caucus is transformed into a coalition of the governor’s lackeys. In that scenario, either Senator Shelley Hughes, of Palmer, or Senator David Wilson, of Wasilla, could end up as the Senate President. In these times the leadership of both bodies need to continue to push back against this governor, but be ready to mount a strong defense next year.
The actions they take toward this goal will shape the future of the state.
Ceezar Martinson ran for the State Legislative District 20 seat in 2018 and worked in Juneau with the staff of Sen. Mike Shower in the first legislative session of 2019.