Rep. Gary Knopp on budget vetoes: 'We're going to exhaust every possibility...don't give up.'

Jul 12, 2019


Rep. Gary Knopp was the Peninsula's lone legislator in Juneau to vote on overriding Gov. Mike Dunleavy's $400 million in budget vetoes.
Credit Office of Rep. Gary Knopp

That portion of the state legislature in Juneau for a special session was again unable to find the votes necessary to override Governor Mike Dunleavy’s vetoes. Roughly a third of the legislature met again at Wasilla Middle School. KDLL’s Shaylon Cochran spoke to Gary Knopp Friday afternoon, the Central Peninsula’s lone legislator in Juneau.



Shaylon Cochran: Friday was the deadline to override the governor’s vetoes, so where are we now?

Rep. Knopp: It was the deadline and the rest of the group didn’t come to Juneau and we didn’t get to 45, so the vetoes have stood. But we’re not completely out of the water yet. On Monday, House Finance will spool up again and we still have a bill, HB 2001, which is a PFD bill... and maybe find an opportunity to put some of those vetoes back inside that bill, so we’re going to take another bite of the apple.

Everybody talks about compromise. We’ve gotten thousands of emails in the last three days, supporting the veto overrides and compromise and going to Wasilla and give a little bit. All the legislature, the house and senate both...have always been willing to talk and to compromise. We’ve talked to the governor twice a day, every single day. It takes two sides to compromise and he has been unwilling to compromise, period. 

He’s got his heart set on constitutional amendments and full PFDs and a vote of the people and just a bunch of stuff that the legislature is just not interested in. It just can’t happen and (it’s) not going to happen in the timeframe he’d like it. Until he starts coming to the table, I’m not sure where we’ll end up. We’ll keep making attempts. I can tell you, the public is really getting worked up about this...the capital budget isn’t funded. That’s a big issue for contractors out there trying to do work, and the federal-matching dollars...There’s a lot of issues out there yet, so we’re going to take another bite and I think they’ll keep calling special session after special session until we get this thing hammered out.

Cochran: I’ve been reading about the party dynamics and that there are really three parties; Republicans, Democrats and this other group. What do you think of that three way dynamic?

Knopp: You’ve got two political parties, two legislative bodies, the house and the senate and it’s interesting, this is the first time, and I mentioned this on the floor the other day, this is the first time in my life I can recall both political parties and both legislative bodies being so united around the issue. We have got 15 Republican followers following the governor, doing whatever he says to do and it’s kind of like to hell with the rest of the state and all the services and the seniors and the kids and education and the university. I mean, have a reasonable discussion on it. They’re not willing to do that. So when you talk about three political parties, you have three different entities and you just have one faction that has spun off, is what they’ve done.

Cochran: You took some heat at the beginning of the session for trying to bring a group together and try to avoid something like this happening. Is it frustrating to be at the finish line and see things turn out like this and all these roadblocks in the way? 

Knopp: It wasn’t to avoid this. It was about damage control. We kind of knew this was coming. Had we all coalesced around the governor’s concepts, we’d be all done and the state would just be faced with what it’s facing right now. This was our only fighting chance right here. And so it is frustrating because there’s no reason to be here. There’s no reason for the vetoes. There’s no reason to be where we’re at; all the uncertainty with the seniors and the education and the university and the private market, jobs, there’s just no reason to be here so yeah, it’s frustrating. But I won’t lay any blame on the legislature. Either body. You call it frustrating, I call it pissed off. I’m being frank because we’ve worked long and hard on this. For both bodies, for the majority of our legislators to come together like they have on the budget, a bi-partisan budget, it’s frustrating to put it modestly.

We’re going to exhaust every possibility. I would just say to folks, don’t give up. It is frustrating. It’s disappointing. But we’re not done. We’re going to keep fighting, every option we’ve got. And the governor, at some point, if he wants anything of his, he’s going to have to come and start compromising because he’s just simply not going to get it all and we’re not going to live with these draconian cuts. We’re just simply not going to do that.