Gov. Dunleavy trims $225M with budget vetoes but leaves school funding boost intact

The facade of the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau on May 22, 2024. (Eric Stone/Alaska Public Media)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed the state’s $12.2 billion operating budget Friday. He trimmed some $225 million in planned spending from the state’s operating and capital budgets with line-item vetoes.

“The framers of Alaska’s Constitution codified a strong chief executive to ensure responsible budgeting,” Dunleavy said on social media. “This budget reflects their intentions. By maintaining focus and fiscal discipline, this budget increases funding where it is needed most while at the same time reducing total Unrestricted General Fund spending,”

Left untouched, though, was roughly $175 million in one-time funding for school districts across the state included by the Legislature. That’s roughly equivalent to $680 in base per-student funding. Dunleavy signaled May 1 that he planned to let the funding survive the veto process after vetoing half of a similar increase last year.

The Anchorage School District welcomed what it said was a much-needed investment. But the state’s largest school district said long-term funding remains inadequate.

“After years of record inflation and corresponding flat funding by the State of Alaska, ASD’s structural budget deficit continues to grow,” the district said. “We will continue to work with the executive and legislative branches to secure adequate funding for ASD students to make sure they have a pathway to long-term success.”

The governor vetoed an additional $5.2 million funding boost for young students in low-income schools and $2.6 million for Head Start. He also vetoed $11.9 million the Legislature had set aside to settle a dispute with the U.S. Department of Education over the distribution of pandemic-era school funding. The funding was planned to be split between the Anchorage and Kenai Peninsula Borough school districts.

Dunleavy also nixed $10 million the Legislature had set aside for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute to help the industry weather a market downturn. He also cut $11 million from a program that helps rural schools afford faster broadband connections, reducing funding by about a third.

The budget includes some $53 million in funding for affordable housing programs and $63 million for school maintenance. There’s also $87 million for the University of Alaska, but the governor cut a $20 million request aimed at making the Fairbanks campus a Tier 1 research university by about 25%.

“We’re grateful for the Legislature’s support of our funding requests and to the Governor for retaining the investment in education,” University of Alaska President Pat Pitney said in a statement. “We look forward to working with them to build on the progress of the last several years.”

The governor also cut more than $120 million in planned spending from the $3.5 billion capital budget. 

The budget signed Friday provides for a Permanent Fund dividend of roughly $1,718 per Alaskan.

 | Website

Eric Stone covers state government, tracking the Alaska Legislature, state policy and its impact on all Alaskans. Reach him at estone@alaskapublic.org.

Previous articleAlaska Supreme Court sides with state, allows correspondence school laws to stand
Next articleAlaska News Nightly: Friday, June 28, 2024