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7/10/2019
Rep. Ortiz holds listening session: Ahead of veto override vote

By SAM ALLEN
Daily News Staff Writer

Rep. Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan) held a listening session Monday night ahead of a scheduled veto override vote.

The Alaska Senate and House leadership have scheduled a vote Wednesday in Juneau to determine whether or not to override Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s $444 million in vetoes.

About 35 people participated in the teleconference with Ortiz and not a single person was in favor of sustaining the vetoes, according to Ortiz’s office. About a dozen people came out to the Ketchikan Legislative Information Office and about half a dozen to the Wrangell office.

According to Ortiz's office people were concerned about nearly all aspects of the budget. A handful of people who worked in the healthcare industry were concerned over the $20.8 million elimination of the senior benefits program and a $50 million reduction in Medicaid benefits, and a $27 million elimination of Medicaid dental benefits for adults. The $2.7 million reduction in public radio funding and the $130 million in university cuts were also a point of malcontent.

Ortiz said he’s received emails into the thousands over the past few days and there is easily a 15-1 ratio in support of a veto override.

However, he said it’s still too early to tell whether more legislators will make their way to Juneau for a vote. On Monday, 37 lawmakers showed up in Juneau and 21 showed up in Wasilla.

“There’s a loud and building chorus across the state calling for an override,” said Ortiz mentioning rallies protesting the vetoes in Juneau and Fairbanks on Monday, and one planned for Tuesday night in Anchorage.

Ortiz says the Legislature is about five votes short of the 45 required for a veto override.

“I think there’s certainly some representatives from districts that are more purplish that would certainly be hard for them not to vote for a veto override, that make it possible that we could in fact get that vote in the end," Ortiz said, "It’s possible.”

The vetoes could be overridden on a line by line basis or in one encompassing vote. Ortiz says the Legislature is currently discussion a single override vote.

If a veto override fails — lawmakers have until Friday to vote on the issue — some affected agencies still could have their funding restored," according to Ortiz.

“It is my understanding there are ways that we could restore those funds through the capital budget process," he said. "So it’s not over yet.”