Veto remains the talk of the town

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Legislators and the public alike continue to voice their opinion on the Governor's vetoes.

Starting at 3 pm on Wednesday, Thrivalaska and Head Start teachers held a rally at the University Geist Intersection. Around 25 individuals held handmade signs as cars honked their horns until 5 pm.

Around the same time, interior delegates Adam Wool, Grier Hopkins, Bart LeBon, Steve Thompson, and Scott Kawasaki held a press conference to show their support of the University of Alaska System. President of the University of Alaska, Jim Johnsen, sat with the delegates. He said that the University will be here for decades to come, but these cuts will drastically change what form the university would be in. With the Governor's statement that he is planning on cutting more next year, the delegates said it was important to stop him this year.

"If he holds to his word, we might as well just close the state," said Rep. Thompson. "I can't see us cutting this budget again next year. That would be impossible."

"That's why it's so important that we override him now," began Rep. Wool; "to show that he can't do this, and to scold him for being bad, so he doesn't try it again. If he gets away with this now, he's going to try it again next year."

The pinnacle of the local discussion was held at the Civic Center in Pioneer Park. Last night's town hall meeting overflowed into the parking lot. Local Representatives Adam Wool, Grier Hopkins, Bart LeBon, and Steve Thompson fielded questions and heard from a full capacity crowd. Speaker of the House, Bryce Edgum was also on the panel. The discussion fluctuated from the amount of the Permanent Fund Dividend for this year, to where the Second Special Session will take place, but the primary focus was on the Governor's veto and the effects of will have in the interior. Most of public comment were made by those involved in the University system. Others who spoke were local politicians, those who rely on Medicaid and Senior Benefits, and workers for nonprofit organizations. A majority of the speakers were against the line item vetoes, but not all. While some residents said Governor Dunleavy is committing genocide with the vetoes, others said they would give up the benefits they get from the program that veto threats, if they receive a full PFD this year. Rep. Edgmon said he does not care if he loses a reelection over this vote.

"I've been a legislator for a long time," started Edgmon. "I'll make tough votes, I'll pay the consequences, but damn it, I'm going to stand up for the best interest of the state."

Rep. Wool said he appreciates everyone who came out, but the legislature has to now focus on overturning the veto. The legislature needs 45 votes, or 75% of the body to overturn the vetoes. Alaska requires the highest percentage of votes to overturn a Governor, more than any of the other United States. According to Representative Bart LeBon, 39 legislators are on board to overturn the veto, meaning 6 more are needed.