Dunleavy: Wasilla special session will be focused on PFD, capital budget can come later

Governor Mike Dunleavy speaks at a press conference in front of Wasilla Middle School. Dunleavy called the Legislature to a second special session, and wants the school to be the venue for lawmakers. (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

After spending 150 days in Juneau, Gov Mike Dunleavy said lawmakers need a change in venue.

The governor announced Thursday that he is calling the Legislature to a second special session to set a Permanent Fund dividend amount. Dunleavy held a press conference Friday in front of Wasilla Middle School, his recommended venue for the session. He said while there is still work to be done on the capital budget, the dividend is his priority for this session.

“It’s my belief that this PFD has been a sticking issue, the problem in all these discussions,” Dunleavy said. “And I think once we get through the PFD, the issues in the capital budget will be taken care of pretty quickly.”

Dunleavy said he imagines a third special session would need to be called to address the capital budget. Legislators did pass an operating budget and a capital budget before adjourning on Thursday. But most of the capital projects weren’t funded.

Dunleavy has yet to sign the operating budget. That’s led to speculation about whether pink slips would be sent to state employees on Monday, signaling that the government could shut down. Dunleavy said he doesn’t plan on sending out pink slips.

“I think it’s a good thing that we have an operating budget. I think it has avoided a shutdown,” Dunleavy said. “We’re still going to scrutinize the budget to see where we can make reductions. But essentially we have a budget intact right now, which I think is good for Alaska.”

The final decision on the venue of the second special session is ultimately up to the Legislature. That session is set to start on July 8th. Staff from the governor’s office say they’re still working through the costs of moving the session from Juneau to Wasilla. Dunleavy said having the session in the Mat-Su borough gives Alaskans on the road system more opportunities to meet with their legislators.

Rashah McChesney with Alaska’s Energy Desk contributed to this report.