The bar is high for a reason
Some lawmakers meeting in the faux legislative session in Juneau are blaming the Alaska Constitution for their 37-1 failure to override Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s $444 million in budget cuts.
“Alaska has, in its Constitution, the highest requirement for a veto override vote of items struck from a budget – 3/4 of the Legislature need to vote in order to undo the actions of a governor,” Senate President Cathy Giessel wrote in an open letter about the failure to override. “All other states require 2/3, 3/5 or simple majority.”
She was not alone. Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, bemoaned Article II, Section 16, of the Alaska Constitution, which sets the high hurdle for budget veto overrides.
“That’s why the override failed: Getting 45 of the 60 legislators to override a gubernatorial veto is a bar about as tall as our governor,” he wrote in an Anchorage Daily News op-ed piece.
Earlier this year, he introduced House Joint Resolution 15, “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Alaska relating to actions upon veto” that would amend the founding document to create a uniform two-thirds veto override threshold.
There was a reason Alaska’s founders wrote a constitution that gave the state a strong governor. The idea was for the new state to have executives who could get things done, who could kick-start the economy, get things rolling and develop its resources with a minimum of fuss.
The real problem is not that the legislators camped in Juneau lack the 45 votes needed to override the vetoes. The real problem is they cannot even muster the 40 votes needed to call themselves into session, making their meeting’s legality questionable, at best.
Their presence in Juneau, far away from the legally called special session in Wasilla, is nothing but a political stunt, and blaming their failures on the constitution is mere deflection.
If they are serious about doing the people’s work, they should get on an airplane, go to Wasilla today, join the 22 lawmakers obeying the law – while being harassed by protesters – and get busy. If they are serious about an override, they have until 11:59 tonight to get it done. Time for talk is running out.
If not, they can explain to their constituents, after the resulting chaos, why they wasted valuable time posturing.