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.