FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Governor Mike Dunleavy announced today his veto of House Bill 48, a bill to reclassify state employees in temporary or special positions and repeal authority given to the governor to authorize higher pay for certain positions.
“Reaching this decision was difficult. I agree with the original intent of the bill that Representative Wilson brought forward. We both identified it as a change that needed to occur in our Personnel Act; I introduced the same provision in a bill I brought forward this past session,” said Dunleavy in a statement.
Representative Tammie Wilson of North Pole sponsored the bill and says it was meant to close a loophole where the governor could hire individuals unlisted in the budget at any salary they wanted to. “We started there, and then it was amended to make it where for new hires, if you were partially exempt, you can only be hired at a certain level, unless you talk about specifically what special skills they have, or what that job needs, then you could go hirer, but you can’t just do it automatically, but we’ve just seen it as political favors in the past, I thought it was time to put it to an end,” said Wilson.
Wilson says the bill passed with overwhelming support, 37 representatives voting in favor to 1 against in the House, with one exempt, and 19 voting for the bill in the Senate, with one senator exempt.
“What we struggled with, as we had departments look at the bill after passage, was the repeal of the valuable tool that the Executive branch may utilize in unique cases. There are certain positions in departments that require a significant amount of experience and professional qualifications, such as petroleum land managers and commercial analysts in the Department of Natural Resources, the Chief Financial Officer for Retirement and Benefits and the Chief Technology Officer in the Department of Administration, and the Tax Division Director in the Department of Revenue,” said Dunleavy.
Wilson said Dunleavy called her on the phone on Thursday, and they discussed the pros and cons of the bill. “On one hand, the bill fixed a significant problem. On the other hand, it eliminated a tool that is used to address the State’s ability to recruit and retain employees of the highest level of qualifications and experience. As I am not able to partially veto a bill, I have committed to working with Rep. Wilson in the future to address the use or creation of temporary or special positions,” said Dunleavy.
“He’s telling me it takes one of the tools out of his hands, and it absolutely does, it says that you can’t just hire one of your friends at any amount that you want to, if you want to hire someone at a higher level of salary, you have to explain it and I think we owe that to Alaskans, especially in the time that we are that if we’re going to pay them an exorbitant amount of money than we absolutely need to justify it,” said Wilson.
Wilson said at the beginning of the next session, those who voted in favor of the bill may work to override the veto.
“I guess we could always veto override, which kind of seems to be one of those things this year, but likelihood is that might be talked about. I’m hoping that those who voted in favor, I haven’t had an opportunity to discuss it with them, that that’s something that could happen the first day of session when we go back, so we will be looking at that and the concerns that the governor had. I truly think he’s just misunderstanding what the bill was supposed to do, it doesn’t tie hands, it just really makes things more transparent and more accountable,” said Wilson.
“Well I guess we make promises as we run and the governor wanted to rein in spending and this was one of his first opportunities to do it and he chose not to,” said Wilson.
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