Dunleavy leaves Senate majority before voting against budget

Sen. Mike Dunleavy (R-Wasilla) answered reporters questions after leaving the Senate majority in order to vote against the budget. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO/Alaska Public Media)

Alaska state Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, answered reporters questions after leaving the Senate majority in order to vote against the budget. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO/Alaska Public Media)

Wasilla Republican Sen. Mike Dunleavy announced he’s leaving the Senate majority, before the Senate passed its budget on Thursday.

Dunleavy joined five minority-caucus Democrats to oppose the $4 billion spending plan, which passed 14-6. He said he felt constrained in the majority, which requires members to support the budget.

“I’m going to respectfully remove myself from the caucus in order for me to vote on this budget the way I think I need to, in order to vote on this budget that I think best represents my constituents,” he said.

Dunleavy said he expects to lose his committee memberships, including chairmanship of the Senate State Affairs Committee.

He also expects to lose funding for most of his staff as a result of the move.

Dunleavy said the Senate should have cut the budget deeper, and should not reduce Alaskans’ Permanent Fund dividends. He denied that leaving the caucus lays the groundwork for him running for governor next year.

“There’s been people talking about, because the election’s coming up, who is going to run for governor,” he said. “People have asked me if I’m going to run. I’ve not committed to run for governor. I’m not going to dismiss it, but that’s not what this is.”

The Senate rejected 16 minority amendments to restore funding for schools, the University of Alaska, and other areas. The body refused to consider amendments that would have restored Permanent Fund dividends.

The minority asked for the Senate to reconsider the budget vote on Friday. Instead, the Senate re-voted on the budget immediately.

Dunleavy voted for the budget the second time, and it passed 15-5. He said that was a mistake, since he thought it was a procedural vote.

If the House doesn’t agree to the Senate’s changes to the budget, then the two chambers will work out their differences in a conference committee.

Recent headlines

  • The male seal receives 24-hour care at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward. He was found sick on an Unalaska beach earlier this month. (Photo courtesy Alaska Sealife Center)

    Third ringed seal found in Unalaska sent for rehabilitation

    After admitting a sick ringed seal from Unalaska, veterinarians at the Alaska SeaLife Center are cautiously optimistic about his chances for recovery.
  • Around 3,000 gallons of oil were released into the Shuyak Strait after this building collapsed. (Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard)

    Response to the oil spill in the Shuyak Strait continues

    At the end of February, 3,000 gallons of oil spilled into the Shuyak Strait about 50 miles north of the City of Kodiak. The oil was in a building that collapsed because of a severe windstorm. Since then, a response has been underway to contain the oil, clean it up, and prevent future spills.
  • Mentoring program to close in Haines, Homer, Hoonah, Sitka

    Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska will no longer make new matches between youths and volunteers in four Alaska communities: Haines, Homer, Hoonah, and Sitka. The organization that matches volunteers and youth for one-on-one mentoring, says it’s a matter of reduced federal and state grant funding.
  • Travis Finkenbinder, pictured here on March 14, 2018, is permanently minimally conscious. A coworker struck him in the head with his float plane's ski in 2014.

    No jail time for float plane pilot after buzzing gone wrong

    The pilot won't serve jail time, but must pay the state $25,000 and the family $6,100 in restitution. The judge expressed doubt that it would send the aviation community much of a message.