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7/11/2019
End game

It appears that Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s end game at this point is to preserve his operating budget vetoes.

Dunleavy has effectively split the Legislature, calling it into a second special session in Wasilla despite most lawmakers’ objections.

Eighteen House and Senate members went to Wasilla for the start of the special session. Thirty-eight went to Juneau, the state’s capital. The balance of the 60-member Legislature had been excused.

While the legislators are arguing over where to meet, they aren’t coming together to deal with the $444 million in budget vetoes.

At this point, given the impassioned divide between legislators, it’s unlikely that they could come together on any number of topics.

And they didn’t earlier this year when it came to entertaining the topic of helping Dunleavy fulfill his biggest and most generous campaign promise — a $3,000 Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend individual payout.

The Legislature is constitutionally required to establish the annual fall payout by the middle of August. It was the single reason Dunleavy called lawmakers into a second special session.

Given that he sees he can’t fulfill his permanent fund dividend promise, Dunleavy can say — if the vetoes stand — that he tried on the dividend and then take a personal victory when it comes to the vetoes.

Most Alaskans who voted for him last November favor smaller government, anyway. Although most also support achieving it without turning the state’s economy upside down.

If this debacle with the executive and legislative branches has any silver lining, it is that Alaskans are paying attention to their government in unprecedented numbers. Lawmakers report receiving comments from thousands of Alaskans, and protesters hit the streets from Juneau to Fairbanks.

It’s a most serious game. At this juncture, it appears that the result will be deep cuts in state government and a dividend much less than $3,000.

It won’t be a done deal until the end of the day Friday. So stay tuned until the clock runs out.