Gov. Walker took a few minutes from his appearance at the Blue Lake Dam dedication in Sitka on Friday (5-8-15) to meet with reporters to discuss the current legislative crisis.
Moments after the legislature ended its regular session late last month, the governor recalled legislators into special session to address three issues: the state budget, Medicaid expansion, and a K-12 sexual assault curriculum commonly known as Erin’s law.
The legislature gaveled in the special session as required by law, but immediately went into recess, and most legislators left the capital.
Walker says he’s made efforts to meet with some of the leadership who’ve remained behind, but he’s clearly frustrated by the standstill.
“I’m not happy being a bystander in this situation. I’m happy to get involved, and even though it’s not my role necessarily, I’ve offered to do that. I’ve had a number of meetings with them (legislative leadership) and every time we get a little optimistic something’s going to happen, then something doesn’t happen. We’ll see what happens on the 12th. We’ll be ready for the legislature to come back to Juneau.”
The legislature has promised to return to work on the 12th. While the governor has the power to call a special session, he can’t force legislators to actually appear. He says the power to call out Alaska’s lawmakers resides with the people.
“That force really is the public. I think the public is rising up in every form of media there is saying, What is going on? Why are we not working? Why are we not finishing this project? Why are we not funding the budget? So I think from a true mechanism standpoint, the public is filling that role right now.”
At the end of its regular session, the legislature had approved a partial budget, $3-billion shy of operating state government for a full year. Minority Democrats have been holding out to restore some drastic cuts to education proposed by the Republican majority.
Gov. Walker was unwilling to predict how the conflict would be resolved.
“It’s hard to speculate what a group of 60 folks are going to do. But I hope they’re going to follow the direction from the public and finish the job, get a budget that’s funded, and let’s get on with it.”
The special session is over on May 27. Legislators will have only 15 days to resolve the logjam when they return to Juneau on Tuesday (5-12-15).
KCAW’s Emily Kwong contributed to this report.