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Alaska governor says he will veto education package unless lawmakers adopt his priorities

Iris Samuels and Sean Maguire, Anchorage Daily News, Alaska on

Published in News & Features

Senate President Gary Stevens, a Kodiak Republican, said he was concerned that the governor's attitude was "It's my way or the highway." Stevens also expressed concern that he was "honestly not sure what the governor's demands are."

"Is he willing to compromise? Or is he saying, 'I get ... everything I want and you have to accept that?'" said Stevens. "That's going to be a problem for us."

Lawmakers also have raised concerns that the roughly $200 million education package that passed the Legislature would already strain state finances. There are other major spending items still to be considered, including the Permanent Fund dividend.

Sitka Republican Sen. Bert Stedman, co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said legislators would be getting an updated fiscal picture on Thursday, but a projected surplus had been "quickly banished" by planned spending. He said education policy changes would need to be sustainable if they were added to the baseline budget considered by the Legislature each year.

Some lawmakers have shown an interest in approving a version of bonuses for teachers to ensure the other elements in the bill pass into law.

Sitka independent Rep. Rebecca Himschoot, a former teacher and member of the Democrat-dominated House minority, said she was open to bonuses for educators but said they should also go to non-certified support staff like custodians and bus drivers.


"We have pressures, workforce pressure is on both categories," she said, arguing that a BSA boost would let school boards decide how they wanted to recruit and retain staff.

Nikiski Republican Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, another former teacher, has a measure that advanced from one legislative committee that would pay teachers a $5,000 bonus to obtain a national teaching certification.

Tom Klaameyer, president of NEA-Alaska, said he felt "frustration and disappointment" after the governor said he would not sign the education bill as written.

"I'm glad, on the other hand, that he didn't outright veto the bill," he said. "So I guess reading between the lines, there leaves room for conversation, which is a good thing, right?"


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