Republican House Speaker Louise Stutes of Kodiak joined KMXT’s Talk of the Rock Tuesday afternoon to discuss the upcoming special legislative session. She also touched upon her relationship with the state Republican Party’s leadership and minority Republicans in the legislature.
Speaker Stutes spoke very candidly on the state legislature during her talk show interview in Kodiak. Concerning the working relationship between the state House minority caucus and Governor Mike Dunleavy.
“I think it’s interesting, I think that it is more of a relationship than he would like people to believe it is. And I think that our minority leader is trying to delicately balance that without an appearance of interference from the governor,” Stutes said.
Stutes is caucusing with Democrats and independents to form a bipartisan coalition in the state House of Representatives. That’s led her to clash with state GOP leaders over the direction of the Alaska Republican Party.
“I would describe it as broken. I… it’s a very sad thing, that they’re fighting each other. They cannot get along. I see that in Juneau. You’ve got these way far right people you’ve got in the Republican Party, and then you’ve got your moderate Republicans. And it’s a difficult situation at best. And like I’ve said several times down there, we’re eating our own,” Stutes said.
She was clear on the fact that she is a Republican, but she included in that assertion that she answers to voters before her party.
“We have politicians who think it’s their job to answer to the party. And I’m a Republican, and I make no bones about it. But before that, before I put that as my top lever, I answer to the people that vote me in. And that comes before party politics, as far as I’m concerned,” Stutes said.
Turning to the topic of the upcoming legislative session, Speaker Stutes’ stated her goals for the budget. She went over the items that were overturned by Governor Dunleavy’s veto that she wanted to see come back in, including fully funding school bond debt and the Power Cost Equalization program which subsidized utility rates for thousands of rural Alaskans.
Stutes concluded by doubling down on her stance against drawing from the permanent fund earnings reserve account which critics say could drain the state’s bank accounts needed to pay an annual Permanent Fund dividend check to Alaskans.
“Hang on for the ride. It’s gonna be a ride, it’s gonna be difficult… And as I said earlier, I am not a proponent of overdrawing the earnings reserve account, because I think that’s a slippery slope, and it is not in the best interest of all Alaskans. People want their PFD and they want it in perpetuity and some years it might be a little bit smaller. But we’re the only state that pays their citizens to live here,” Stutes said.
If nothing else, Stutes says she’s committed to making the budget as close as possible to the one that was on Governor Dunleavy’s desk before he made line-item vetoes.