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Friday, January 28, 2022

Government Shutdown Looms

Gadzooks, what a week!

Alaskans are understandably suffering some serious emotional whiplash if they’ve been paying attention to what’s afoot in the Capitol. The governor recently sent an email blast urging a no vote on the budget. His contingent of minority Republicans was listening.

At first we thought there was going to be a government shutdown, then at the last minute a budget was passed with bipartisan support despite the governor’s appeals to kill it, and it looked like we were out of the woods. 

Narrator: They were not out of the woods.


The thing to know in order to fully understand the skulduggery perpetrated by the governor yesterday is the meaning of this.

“The Effective Date Clause.” When people hear terms like that, their eyes glaze over a little but it’s actually pretty simple. Every time a bill becomes law, there’s a second vote (which usually happens without drama) in which the legislature votes on when the new law will go into effect. So there are two votes – one for the actual budget itself, and then a second vote for the effective date – when the budget goes into effect. 

The fiscal year begins July 1, so the new budget has to be effective by that date or there’s no money to fund things and the government shuts down, services stop, and thousands of state workers get the dreaded pink slip. And after this year, getting a pink slip is adding insult to injury, big time. So the legislature… excuse me, I should say MOST of the legislature tried diligently to avoid this shutdown.

But there was a little problem. The minority Republican legislators (We’ll call them #TeamDunleavy) had voted AGAINST the effective date clause. Weird? Yes, but stay with me.

Nobody was really concerned about this weird vote against the effective date because there are decades of precedent for something known as “retroactivity language,” which means they purposefully worded the bill in such a way as to avoid government shutdown. So, the actual NO vote by legislators (above) on the effective date clause didn’t matter because the effective date was covered already.

The budget was passed and forwarded to the governor, and everybody got on the plane and left Juneau to go home.


The governor, after receiving the bill on his desk to sign, held a press conference to talk about the budget. 

He said that he was NOT going to sign the budget given to him by the legislature because the #TeamDunleavy legislators had voted no on the effective date clause and therefore the budget was “unconstitutional” in his view. And he had “no choice” but to send out layoff notices which happened as he was speaking.

Narrator: He had a choice.

Yep, he decided to ignore the decades of precedent, throw normalcy out the window, and chose to interpret the law in his own way. But, he said, we have a great “opportunity now to craft a budget that takes into account the different views of Alaskans throughout the state.” 

What that means is that this whole debacle was purposefully set in motion to force the legislature to appropriate a larger PFD this year than what they feel comfortable with, to appease #TeamDunleavy, even though a budget was passed without them. Tyranny of the minority.

So it all leads back to the size of the PFD. Now, there are plenty of legislators on both sides of the aisle who think we need a larger PFD and plenty of others, also on both sides of the aisle, who think we should have a more conservative PFD. So, if that’s the conversation, the question is how will we pay for it?

Where is this money for a giant PFD coming from? Will there be a new form of revenue like an income tax on wealthier Alaskans? A seasonal sales tax? An education tax? Will we be reworking oil tax structure? Will we decide not to pay out the billion dollars in discretionary tax credits to oil companies this year? Because if we’re going to pay a larger PFD, it has to come from somewhere. 

The governor’s answer? No new revenue will be considered.

So in the real world, THAT means unfathomable cuts to state services (remember last year when Dunleavy and Donna Arduin hatcheted EVERYTHING?), or it means the financial equivalent of eating the seed corn and pulling more from the permanent fund than most think is fiscally responsible to sustain it into the future.

And while all this is going on, the threat of a shutdown looms. Unless of course #TeamDunleavy gets his permission to change their votes. Don’t hold your breath.

Twitter yesterday and today is AFLAME.

[James Brooks, Anchorage Daily News]

[Rep. Liz Snyder (D-Anchorage)]

[Rep. Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage)]

[Rep. Zack Fields (D-Anchorage)]

[Sen. Jesse Kiehl (D-Juneau)]

I wish I could tell you what’s going to happen, but it feels like a giant game of government chicken because views are pretty much entrenched at this point, and nobody likes being strong-armed and manipulated after already having gone through the backbreaking work of wrangling a budget in the first place.

Also, going back to square one is a time-consuming prospect and time is running out.

The governor has said that he will call legislators back to Juneau on June 23 if they don’t come back and fix the effective date clause by… *looks at watch*… today. They have until midnight to do it.

IF the government does shut down, the ramifications are staggering in the middle of summer as we try to get back on our economic feet. The ferry system would shut down, the Whittier Tunnel would close, parks and campgrounds would close, no birth or marriage certificates, child support case work, timber sales, hunting and fishing, and according to this article from the Anchorage Daily News when this happened in 2017, a lot of other things.


If your legislator’s name is in red on that vote board above, you might want to call them ASAP and tell them to change their position before it all shuts down.


On a happier note, today is the first official celebration of our nation’s newest federal holiday – Juneteenth! 

The holiday will be celebrated to mark the end of slavery in the United States, BUT note that it is not celebrated on September 22 when Lincoln signed the emancipation proclamation, or on January 1the day it took legal effect.

The day is celebrated on June 19 to commemorate the arrival of Union troops in Galveston, Texas, more than two years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Why?  The law abolishing slavery was the law, but slave states pretty much weren’t enforcing it until Union troops arrived to make them, and Texas was the furthest away.

So for two long years, 250,000 enslaved people in Texas remained enslaved despite the law, living and dying, never knowing they were free. Despite what the right would have you believe, we didn’t magically change into a post-racial society the moment Lincoln’s pen hit the paper. 

And while everyone somehow got together to vote for this new federal holiday commemorating the day the last slaves learned they were free, and that those holding them in bondage had been breaking the law for 2 years, the Republicans who voted for the holiday are the same ones who are fighting to 1) keep students from learning this very history and its ramifications by banning critical race theory in schools, and 2) rallying behind heinous legislation designed to repress the voting rights of communities of color.

The very reason that THIS day is celebrated instead of January or September is proof we need to be teaching critical race theory, which simply acknowledges the ways that racism intersects with our legal system. The systems already in place at the end of the Civil War which were rigged against Black Americans didn’t un-rig themselves right then. Black people had to live with and create a new history out of them, and the effects of that are felt to this day in very tangible ways. It’s just a fact, and one we need to learn and not hide from.

President Biden said it yesterday, Great nations don’t ignore the most painful moments.” 94-year old activist Opal Lee, who campaigned to make the day a national holiday stood watching as he signed the bill.

And so we move on and learn, and teach, and work hard to make it better so we can get people like this who think that knowledge is dangerous out of public office.

Yesterday at the signing ceremony in the White House, Vice President Kamala Harris said, after President Biden signed the bill into law:”We are gathered here in a house built by enslaved people. We are footsteps away from where President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation… We have come far, and we have far to go. But today is a day of celebration. It is not only a day of pride. It’s also a day for us to reaffirm and rededicate ourselves to action.”

Happy Juneteenth, everyone. This holiday is now in the lexicon, and its implications cannot be ignored. That’s a step. One of many more to come.


This is from the website of Don Young:”Alaska is home to more veterans per capita than any other state in the Union, so it is easy to see why the love for our veterans’ community is ingrained in the tapestry of Alaska. As a veteran myself, I understand that we have a responsibility as a Nation to take care of our veterans. I have made that responsibility one of my top priorities and will continue to fight for all those men and women who are willing to step forward and put their lives on the line for us.”

Sounds good, right? He even touts his efforts to get veterans the healthcare they need. So what does “fighting for all those women who are willing to step forward and put their lives on the line for us” look like? Not much, apparently.

Last week, three days after Women Veterans Day, Don Young voted to kill a bill that would allow women veterans access to contraception without a co-pay – just like active duty military women and all civilian women do  right now. That’s correct, the Affordable Care Act, and the military insurance Tricare both cover contraception with no copay already. But our veterans going through the VA system? Those women are out of luck, and Don Young isn’t going to help. With his help HR.239: The Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act failed to pass the House.

Seems like Alaska women vets should have someone to represent them who really has their backs, not just a bunch of patriotic puffery on a website. Stay tuned…



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