Discover more from The Alaska Memo by Matt Buxton
Deal coming together to avoid government ‘pause’
🎶 If you want to avoid the shut-down, You’ll agree to what we’ve wrote down 🎶
Happy Friday, Alaska! It’s the third day of the special session to resolve Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s manufactured shutdown crisis and it looks like there might be reason to be cautiously optimistic for once.
In this edition: The latest on the legislative dealmaking, a Very Real look at the House Republican minority’s demands to keep the government open, the reading list, and it’s almost time for the Olympics!
A potential deal is in sight, maybe
It looks like a deal is perhaps, maybe, probably, hopefully coming together in the House to get the effect date on the budget, which may or may not actually be needed to keep the state government open and operating on July 1. As was first reported by the Anchorage Daily News, it sounds like the plan is for the House to hash out some kind of rough outline for the August special session that Gov. Mike Dunleavy has already called to focus on a long-term fiscal plan. The intransigent House Republicans minority will be putting together a written document outlining their asks for the special session—which may be a surprisingly difficult task given just how fractured the minority actually is—and submit it to the House Majority Coalition sometime over the weekend to figure out the final draft. The hope is that they can get a vote on it, likely in the form of a Sense of the House, on Monday that would coincide with the critical revote on the budget’s effective date.
So, yep, after all the drama that has pushed the state closer to a shutdown than it has ever been it was all in service of… getting a non-binding agreement for a special session that’s a little more than a month away.
With Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed fix being a “start over from square one but give me the $2,350 PFD and allow Mat-Su legislators to vote to kill Power Cost equalization without personal consequence” shockinglygetting no traction in the Legislature, it’s not all that surprising that this is the outcome. Not only was it politically unlikely that the majority of the Legislature would be willing to buy those votes with a $1.5billion overdraw on the Alaska Permanent Fund—the very thing they’ve been opposing all session—but the whole thing presented an enormous logistical challenge. Drafting and the litany of anti-abortion amendment votes alone wouldhave likely pushed everything past July 1 anyways.
Thursday’s House Finance Committee hearing not only outlined all the private industry concerns with a shutdown, but also served to make clear that the House Majority wasn’t willing to buy the votes if that’s the cost.
Of course, this could still all fall apart as several members of the House Republican minority seem to be pretty convinced that a shutdown will be no big deal. Rep. Christopher Kurka said on Wednesday that government’s “not being shutdown, it’s just being paused temporarily.” Rep. Ken McCarty, R-Eagle River, told the ADN that his constituents will be fine with the shutdown as long as they can still go fishing. Rep. Ben Carpenter complained about everyone saying a shutdown would be very bad for the state, sniveling that people who supported the shutdown weren’t included in the House Finance Committee hearing, arguing that the shutdown isn’t sending the state off the cliff but that “We are taking a path downwards to the bottom of the cliff.” Sen. Mike Shower, one of the many Senate Republicans who couldn’t be bothered to show up for the special session this week, went on the radio to suggest it’s just a vacation for state employees.
While there’s plenty of bluster here, it’s also notably coming from the fringes.
As much as the House Republican minority looks to be united in chaos, the image is largely driven by who’s whining the loudest—and, frequently, the most ridiculously—while many of the others have known well enough to keep their mouths shut and heads down, focused on getting to a deal.
Still, I think a lot about where we’re at right now speaks to just how isolated much of the Legislature’s far-right Republicans have become. It’s not entirely surprising when you remember that only Rep. Steve Thompson has been there for more than a decade and that he’s just one of three who have any experience in the majority. The rapid turnover on the Republican side of the aisle has seen the near-extinction of your pro-business Republicans, replaced with a crowd that largely sees far-right talk radio as centrist. For them, shutting down government is not a liability but a perk. Luckily, it seems that for now cooler heads have prevailed.
Still, I wouldn’t be banking on anything until the votes are tallied and the budget is signed.
Exclusive: House Republican minority’s initial ask
To the tune of Merry Poppins’ “Perfect Nanny.”
If you want to avoid the shut-down
You’ll agree to what we’ve wrote down
Big PFD, no taxes (Eastman and Kurka, in unison, “That’s the part I put in”)
No funds for UA sports
You must be kind, you must be witty
Fund capital projects in my city
Take us on outings, give us treats
Sing songs, pave streets
Never be cross or cruel, never rule us out of order
No funds for abortion and how about something about the border? (Eastman: “I put in that, too”)
If you won’t scold and dominate us
We’ll still give you cause to hate us
We won’t hide your spectacles so you can’t see,
Just don’t ask us to preserve PCE
Hurry, Speaker Stutes!
The House Republican minority.
There’s some incredibly ghastly crime news out of Fairbanks this week, but instead let’s focus on this hike report from Eric Troyer and how "stupid optimism" and "really good bad ideas" combine together to make a 50-hour hike out of what you thought would be a 20-hour romp. Also, everything about this sounds familiar to quite a few friends. From the News-Miner: My Big Fat Stupid Hike
“What the heck is that cargo container thing near Earthquake Park?” you may have wondered while running or biking along the Coastal Trail. Well, wonder no longer! From the Anchorage Daily News: Curious Alaska: What are shipping containers with observation decks doing along the Anchorage waterfront?
Sure seems like there’ve been a lot of hacks lately, what’s up with that? Here’s what’ up with that from Alaska Public Media: Hackers have penetrated multiple Alaska agencies this year. Here’s what we know.
And now for something completely different
I haven’t hardly been watching anything other than Olympic qualifiers and Fairbanks sunsets for much of the past two weeks, but here's an interesting explainer for everyone who wonders “Why do they jump like that in the high jump?”
Have a nice weekend y’all.