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Governor Dunleavy talks PFD, Biden and ranked-choice voting

Published: May. 11, 2022 at 4:45 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy sat down with KTVF & KXDF in Fairbanks to discuss issues facing Alaska and the nation.

The governor said he’d like to see as large a Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) as possible come out of the current state legislative session, “especially now, with all of these inflationary pressures that have befallen the entire world, whether it’s fuel, food, etc... but really, getting a PFD the people of Alaska expect, and given that fact that we have a multi-billion dollar surplus this year, as a result of the high cost of fuel, I think it’s appropriate that we move in that direction.

He continued by saying, “I think the end of the session will probably happen sometime around May 15th. That’s just my guess given where things are in the committees, and again, I think the PFD will be settled hopefully here in the next week or so. A lot of work done in committees, but the end result will happen on the floor, and I’m optimistic.”

While Dunleavy said it’s difficult to predict whether he will need to call a special session, he said, “I’m never going to take that off the table if we need to continue our work to get things settled for the people, so we’ll see what happens in the next week or two and then we’ll be able to determine what we do after that.”

Aside from the PFD, the governor’s legislative priorities with the remaining time in the session include “some crime bills, and our People First Initiative that would protect some of our most vulnerable. We have a number of bills that we’ve got in committees now. We’re hopeful that the legislature will pass those bills to protect, especially, our women.

Dunleavy also discussed land bills in the legislature, saying, “We want to do some land reform in the state of Alaska so that we can get more land in the hands of folks that want to farm, more land in the hands of folks who want to put up a cabin, whether it’s a fish camp, a hunting camp, [or] a weekend cabin. We have plenty of land in the state of Alaska and to get that land into the hands of people I think will be important.”

Asked about how his relationship with the administration of President Joe Biden is going, the governor said, “I don’t think it’s any secret that it’s not the greatest. Many of us in Alaska feel that Washington is actually doing things to Alaska as opposed to doing things with us. They have an agenda. That agenda is not necessarily Alaska-friendly if you believe in resource development, if you believe in oil and gas development, mining development, timber development, the things that actually create jobs and opportunity.”

He claimed the Biden administration is trying to do everything they can to shut the development of these resources down. “That is a problem. As a result of that, we’ve had to engage them in litigation, and we will continue to do that because we think that Alaska’s future is actually at stake if we have a government, or an administration in Washington that is so averse to what Alaska does.

The governor continued, “Alaska was purchased and possessed by the United States, purchased from the Russians for its mineral and resource potential as well as our geolocation on the globe. Right now, you have a situation where you have the high cost of energy and oil and gas is causing this administration to go to talk to some of our worst neighbors, Venezuela, Iran, to ask them to produce more oil and gas when we can do that here in Alaska.”

He explained the Biden administration “has a stated goal of implementing as many renewable approaches as possible, their green energy approach - and again, in Alaska, we think we should have an all-in energy approach. Not only am I not adverse to renewables, but we’re actually pushing as many renewables as possible - but it doesn’t have to be an either/or, and for this administration to realize its goals, they’re going to need Alaska in terms of our critical minerals and our metals and our rare earths here, and so it hasn’t been a great relationship.”

This year Alaska is testing its new ranked-choice voting system, voted in by Alaskans in 2020. On the form of voting, Dunleavy said, “The people of Alaska are really going to have to understand it,” adding, “This is a brand new approach. It’s coming sooner than we anticipated with the unfortunate and untimely death of our congressman (Don Young), but this is going to give people an opportunity to be exposed to a new system. Hopefully, the people of Alaska will understand how this works.

He discussed efforts to educate Alaskans about the new system, saying, “I know there’s education campaigns happening right now - and again, hopefully the new voting scheme and the ability for people to feel comfortable in voting in this new scheme works. I think all Alaskans want to make sure that their votes count, that they believe that when they go into the ballot box, it’s almost a sacred duty - and that whoever they vote for, it’s counted, tabulated, processed the right way. So we’ll see what happens. I know the Division of Elections and the Lieutenant Governor are working overtime on this issue, again, to make sure this election runs well because it’s going to bump right into the primary for the regular election and the general right after that, in November.”

As happens every 10 years in Alaska, the November 2022 ballot will ask Alaskans whether there should be a constitutional convention. Asked whether he would be in favor of such a convention, and if so, what he would like to see come out of one, Dunleavy said, “In the history of Alaska, that ballot measure has [always] failed. People have not voted to support a constitutional convention. I don’t know what’s going to happen this year.”

He added, “There’s a number of constitutional amendments that we’ve put into the legislature to get some action on, for example with the PFD, and an amendment that would ensure a spending limit, for example taxation limits, etc. We’ll see what happens with those, and after that I may form a more focused opinion on whether there should be or shouldn’t be, or whether people should vote or should not vote for it. Again, that’s going to be an individual choice. People are just going to have to decide what they believe is best for themselves and Alaska, but that’s going to be a discussion that I’m sure is going to gather steam as time goes on.”

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