Alaska's months of budgeting strife has culminated in efforts to recall Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy.
The Recall Dunleavy group began efforts to recall the governor with signature collection events in nearly two dozen Alaska cities Thursday. The group accuses Dunleavy, who came into office in December 2018, of refusing to appoint a judge, misusing state funds, violating separation of powers and incompetently vetoing state funds.
The group would need to collect signatures numbering at 10% of those who voted in the general election for the recall to go ahead, according to the Alaska Division of Elections.
"I think whenever you make difficult decisions and people are involved, such as these vetoes, this is not necessarily a shock or surprising. I believe in public engagement. I believe that the people have a right to voice their opinion. There is a process for everything including the idea of a recall -- it's got criteria for that recall to be successful," Dunleavy told reporters.
However, he added, he believes his actions to create a budget were in line with the constitution and that there is no ground for a recall.
The budget has been a big topic of contention for the governor for months.
In June, Dunleavy cut $444 million from the state operating budget for the 2020 fiscal year, including $130 million in state funding to the University of Alaska system. Alaska lawmakers unsuccessfully attempted to override the veto that made the cut possible.
The legislature has, however, sued the governor for the cuts against schools, which has ensured that the funds would be provided while the case is in court.
The governor also vetoed court system funding, the recall group alleges, to retaliate against the Alaska Supreme Court for its ruling on public funding of elective abortions.
The group also alleges that Dunleavy mistakenly vetoed $18 million more in funding than he intended to, used public funds for partisan advertisements and failed to appoint a Superior Court judge in the mandatory 45 days after nominees were presented to him.
The governor's office said in a statement to CNN that his focus has been on "addressing the challenges the many before him have been unwilling to tackle."
"While some will focus on political gamesmanship, Governor Dunleavy's administration is focused on empowering Alaskans through the agenda he ran on, including addressing Alaska's unsustainable budget, improving public safety, growing the economy, fighting for pro-business policies, and championing a full statutory PFD," the statement said.