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We Build Alaska

The Sunday Minefield – June 11, 2023

It’s hard to believe it’s almost mid-June. Hopefully the summer weather we have all been waiting for arrives soon. With session over and no election this year, politics have really died down since session ended almost a month a ago. I flew down to Albuquerque, New Mexico this week to attend my 20 year high school reunion, so I have been a bit out of touch this week. Twenty years sure does fly by!

A friendly message and reminder to all our readers. The Landmine is made possible by myself and a team of awesome Alaskans. I recently got back from Juneau for my fifth session in a row reporting on the Legislature. If you enjoy the content we provide, please consider making a one time or recurring monthly donation. You can click here to donate. We have a donation system that makes it super easy. We would really appreciate it. And thanks to everyone who has been supportive!

Budget Limbo

The budget has still not been transmitted to Governor Mike Dunleavy (R – Alaska). I was told it was being finalized by legal but it’s odd it has still not been sent to him after being passed nearly a month ago. Because it is a House bill, Speaker Cathy Tilton (R – Wasilla) is the person who transmits it.

Dunleavy has to make vetoes and sign it by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year. Dunleavy, and his team, have been silent on vetoes. When I asked him about vetoes at the Sustainable Energy Conference, he dodged the question and refused to give an answer.

He’s in a tough spot with the dividend. He wanted a full statutory dividend. Many House Republicans wanted a 50/50 dividend, the number they sent to the Senate (though they failed to get the votes to draw from the Constitutional Budget Reserve). The Senate ended up with a 25/75 dividend in their budget (with the possibility of some extra next year if oil prices are high enough) with no CBR draw required, which they House concurred with.

Dunleavy could veto the entire dividend and other things, like the $175 million in extra student spending or certain capital projects. Then he could call them back and hold the other stuff hostage for a larger dividend. But with oil prices still in the mid-$70s and the desire for legislators not to go back to Juneau, that is risky. The Legislature also did him a favor by passing the carbon bill he wanted.

If he signs the budget with the 25/75 dividend, he essentially endorses that amount. That will make it harder to get a larger amount in the coming years. Whatever he ends up doing will have some negative consequences. My bet is he reluctantly signs the budget with the 25/75 dividend, partially vetoes the $175 million in extra student spending, and vetoes certain capital projects that benefit legislators he’s not a fan of.

Other Happenings 

Governor Dunleavy announced Jerry Moses as his new director of the State of Alaska’s Washington D.C. Office. Congrats, Jerry! Moses previously served as the vice president of intergovernmental affairs for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. The D.C. position has been vacant the last few months. Gregg Renkes was previously on contract for the position, but left in March. Kip Knudson held the position before Renkes.

The Anchorage Assembly and Mayor Dave Bronson continue to posture about the ever growing homelessness problem. But, again, nothing is really being done to solve the problem. One only has to drive or walk around the city to see how bad the problem is. The Assembly voted 9-2 on Tuesday to allow for a sanctioned camping site for the homeless. It’s right near Cuddy Park, which they are trying to clear of tents for a music festival this weekend. It only allows for 30-60 people starting (originally said until, which was a mistake) July 17. With our city’s track record, it will probably end up being there a long time. Meanwhile nothing substantial is really being done to alleviate this mess. It just keeps getting worse every year.

This Week’s Loose Unit

Alaska politics have sure slowed down since session ended. So there’s definitely been fewer Loose Unit candidates. I could realistically do a daily Loose Unit during session. But no matter what, there’s always a Loose Unit. This week’s Loose Unit is all nine members of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly.

First, a little background. In 2019 the Assembly, which was left leaning at the time, narrowly voted to create a climate action committee to develop a climate action plan. They allowed the Assembly chair to appoint all seven members. Assembly member Mindy O’Neall, a prominent Democrat who works as the executive director of the Cold Climate Housing Research Center, was chair at the time. They allocated $70,000 for the committee.

They spent years working on the plan, but nothing concrete resulted. Covid was probably partially to blame. Fast forward to November 2022. Assembly member Aaron Lojewski, a conservative, was elected the new chair by a now-conservative leaning Assembly. Lojewski got rid of everyone on the committee except Terry Chapin, who was billed as kind of a super smart climate guru.

The new committee revised whatever plan the old committee had by dialing it back. Basically it said to focus on natural gas and apply renewables where it makes sense, which is a logical and reasonable plan. Chapin even voted with the new members more than half the time. They finished their plan in May and sent it to the Assembly for approval.

It came up during Thursday’s Assembly meeting, where a narrow approval was expected. After several hours of public testimony and debate, the plan FAILED 0-9! That by itself is loose. But the reasons for the no votes is even looser. The four progressives who voted no said it wasn’t extreme enough. But the five conservatives said it was too extreme! One conservative member called it “authoritarian leftism.” That is maximum loose. Aaron Gibson, the chair of the climate committee, said that because everyone hated the plan, it was probably pretty good. Love the old Henry Clay approach. But the Assembly obviously did not agree. Even Lojewski, the chair who appointed everyone to the committee, voted no. Classic Loose Unit behavior.

You can see the members of the climate action committee here.

Here are the no votes broken down:

Conservatives: Barbara Haney, Tammie Wilson, Jimi CashAaron Lojewski, Brett Rotermund

Progressives: Mindy O’Neall, David Guttenberg, Savannah Fletcher, Kristan Kelly

If you have a nomination for this week’s Loose Unit, or if you have any political news, stories or gossip (or any old pics of politicians or public officials) please email me at jeff@alaskalandmine.com.

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Shelia
3 months ago

I think that the Loose Unit should have been whoever was supposed to transmit the state budget. It’s nearing the middle of June and the governor does not have it? Extreme Loose Unit!

Been there
3 months ago
Reply to  Shelia

Often, it’s a matter of Legal needing to chase down Finance members for clarifications. And then chasing down Senate Prez and House Speaker for signatures. All those officials travel after session, sometimes internationally, and sometimes to isolated fishing lodges/boats.