Judge rules funding schools a year ahead is valid, dealing defeat to Dunleavy

Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Attorney General Kevin Clarkson at a press conference held at the Capitol, Jan. 30, 2018. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

A state judge ruled on Thursday that school funding for this year the Alaska Legislature passed last year is valid.

Juneau Superior Court Judge Daniel Schally ruled that Gov. Mike Dunleavy, Education Commissioner Michael Johnson and Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka “violated their duty to faithfully execute the law” by not executing the appropriation.

The administration had agreed to send out school funding payments until the case is resolved. But it argued that the appropriation passed more than a year before this budget year started was invalid.

Schally issued an injunction, mandating that the governor and the commissioners disburse the funds.

Attorney General Kevin Clarkson said he’ll appeal the ruling.

In a statement, Clarkson said the decision “upends the appropriations process as we know it and could lead to one legislature and governor setting the budget five, six or more years in advance.”

Legislators have said that’s unlikely, since they could always change appropriations passed in a previous year. They chose not to do that this year.

Dunleavy originally proposed cutting school funding by nearly one-fourth before backing away from the cut. He’s scheduled to propose the next state budget by Dec. 15.

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Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.