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.
Alaska has a lot going on right now.
Never miss the important parts with insightful (and entertaining) news from The Signal, the best weekly Alaska news email.
- Under Alaska state law, at least 30 days’ notice is needed to hold a non-emergency special session during the interim. That would push any special session now up against the holidays.
- The Tazlina was scheduled to have new side doors installed this winter. Instead, the state ferry will provide service between Juneau and the communities of Haines, Skagway, Hoonah and Gustavus.
- Bruce Tangeman, who ran the state's Department of Revenue, also wrote that any potential new taxes would support what he called an unsustainable budget, as well as permanent fund dividends.
- The NTSB update is a detailed, seven-page statement of facts about the flight and the investigation, with sections on the runway, the flight recorders, the plane and its engines. It does not assign a cause to the crash. That's expected later.