North Pole Republican Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole is no longer a member of the House Majority Coalition, leaving five months after shocking conservative constituents by joining the bipartisan organization, it was announced today.
"The Alaska House Majority thanks Rep. Tammie Wilson for the leadership role she played in our caucus this year, but today she left our organization. We look forward to continuing to work with Rep. Wilson and all members of the Legislature on the important tasks ahead," reads a statement posted to the Alaska House Majority's official Twitter account Thursday afternoon.
Wilson was the only one of 38 lawmakers, a mix of House and Senate Democrats and Republicans, to vote against an override of Gov. Mike Dunleavy's budget vetoes during a joint session in Juneau on Wednesday. In a floor speech, Wilson noted she felt funding issues would be better taken up as supplemental budgets or through capital budget funding.
House Majority Leader Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, said Thursday afternoon that the majority tried to work with Wilson following her appearance with legislators in Wasilla and again after her vote against the override in Juneau, but ultimately her position did not fit with the ideals to which the caucus had agreed.
"The Majority felt like we had agreed to come down here to Juneau and she went to Wasilla instead," Thompson told the Daily News-Miner in a Thursday afternoon phone call. "We felt like that wasn't great, and then we as a caucus had agreed we would vote for the budget on the floor, well she voted yes on the budget, but with the governor's vetoes we had come up to vote to override the vetoes and she voted no on overriding them."
Thompson added that after discussions with Wilson, caucus leaders removed her as co-chair of the House Finance Committee but offered her the position of vice chairman in the committee as long as she agreed to stay in the caucus, an offer which Thompson said Wilson declined.
A spokesman for House Speaker Bryce Edgmon noted that "Rep. Wilson voluntarily left the House Majority."
Wilson said she felt she was being punished for her choices.
"That's what happens when you try to follow the law I guess," Wilson said in an interview with the News-Miner. "They're punishing me for following the Constitution and going to Mat-Su on Monday and then further punishing me because I represented my district yesterday."
The District 3 representative said she had been clear with the caucus that she did not support an override.
"They knew months ago that I was not going to override the vetoes," she said. "They knew that going in but they said nothing about that being punishable."
Like many other lawmakers, Wilson has been receiving a flood of feedback from constituents and Alaska residents on the governor's contentious budget vetoes and said that by voting against the override she was sticking with what her district asked her to do.
"I don't represent the caucus, I represent my constituents," she said. "They've been saying they want to see some reductions. So what I suggested on the floor (Wednesday) was that we should look at each and every one of the vetoes and approach them individually and carefully."
Wilson added that her "no" vote represented her position that the Legislature should work to reach a compromise between dueling opinions on issues pertaining to state-funded services and the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend.
"My vote was to say that I'm not going to blanket override, but I would look into each and every one of them so we could still try to get as close to the governor's goal," Wilson said. "It's called compromise."
Wilson was packing her office in the Juneau Capitol building Thursday afternoon with plans to catch the evening flight home to the Fairbanks area. She noted that she has not decided whether she will travel to Wasilla to meet with the minority Republicans but added that they had already reached out.
Thompson stated clearly Wilson not only lost her seat as House Finance co-chair but has been removed from the committee altogether.
According to Thompson, the Committee on Committees has Anchorage Republican Rep. Jennifer Johnston, who is already a member of the Finance committee, as a co-chair. Given that the committee will be one member short following Wilson's departure, Thompson said it's likely Fairbanks Democratic Rep. Adam Wool will fill the empty seat, but he clarified that while the Committee on Committees has approved both replacements, the entire caucus must vote to approve the changes.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.