Central Peninsula Representative Gary Knopp is in town for some meetings, including a joint chambers of commerce breakfast tomorrow (Friday). He has taken heat and received praise for his decision to force the creation of a bipartisan coalition to run the State House, and said he’s come back home to talk with residents about the situation in Juneau.
It turns out that as Knopp was making his way back to Kenai, the House elected Dillingham Independent Rep. Bryce Edgmon to be the speaker on a 21-18 vote. Two Republicans, Chuck Kopp (former City of Kenai Police Chief) and Jennifer Johnston, both of Anchorage, voted for Edgmon.
Kenai’s representative said he expects to join the majority when he returns to Juneau.
And now that there is a House organization, Knopp says it’s time to get down to work on the budget, the Governor’s version of which was released on Wednesday.
Knopp says there are things in Dunleavy’s budget — which slashes $1.6 billion — that he’ll like, and some he won’t, but it’s the Governor’s approach that has him puzzled.
“This particular method. I don’t appreciate this style. I’ve never seen a good administrator ever go in and take this approach.”
A couple of things in the budget especially touched a nerve with Knopp.
“You know what concerns me is shutting a wing at Wildwood. That’s 46 people, 46 people losing their jobs out there and millions of dollars in payroll. And then the trickledown effect, the money they spend, the schools they attend, so that concerns me.”
Another was the governor’s proposed gutting of the University of Alaska system.
“That closes the Kenai Campus. More than likely the Homer campus. Southeast campus," he speculated.
And another is Dunleavy’s plan to shift oil patch property tax revenue away from the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
“You know, the oil and gas tax legislation changes costs this borough about $15 million, that we will no longer receive. The school district funding, you know, the numbers are somewhere between $10 and $20 million or every every million dollars equates to about 10 teaching position to the education system. It's unconscionable to tell the borough you can't tax the assets inside your jurisdiction boundaries. So that cost the borough about $15 million.
Knopp will speak at a special breakfast joint meeting of the Kenai and Soldotna chambers of commerce on Friday morning at 8:30 a.m. in the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center.