JUNEAU – This week, the clock ran out on the Alaska Legislature’s constitutional opportunity to reject Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s $444 million in budget vetoes through an override vote supported by three-quarters of lawmakers.
This is not the end, and the fight to restore funding for essential services continues with a great sense of urgency.
Legislative leaders are communicating with the governor regularly. Floor sessions will continue to be held in the State Capitol, and finance committee meetings will be held on the road system next week to discuss subjects requested by the governor.
While there are multiple paths toward a compromise that avoids the most damaging consequences of the governor’s vetoes, every day this remains unresolved, effects on Alaska’s economy and communities will worsen:
- The University of Alaska will meet Monday to start down the path of declaring financial exigency, effectively a bankruptcy proceeding, which could lead to hundreds of job losses, campus closures, and rushed liquidation of assets. Exact steps to deal with the $135 million reduction need to be identified by July 30.
- Scholarships were abruptly revoked from 12,000 of the most qualified students in the UA system, many of whom lack resources to attend college otherwise.
- Alaska’s most financially vulnerable elders who rely on Senior Benefits Program payments are doing without food and medication: 1,742 people with $942 monthly income or less lost out on a $250 payment as a result of the vetoes.
- The Brother Francis Shelter in Anchorage is ending its day service, which provides case management and a clothing room for homeless people.
- Nonprofit grant recipients are starved of resources, leaving service providers facing dire choices. Hospice of Anchorage, for example, is unable to bathe and feed dying people.
- In mid-August, DOT will be forced to stop work on some highway projects already in progress during summer construction season, including on the Sterling Highway.
- Without a compromise, there will be no Power Cost Equalization benefits this winter, dramatically increasing energy prices on rural residents.
“Senators are keenly aware of the urgency many are feeling today,” said Senator Cathy Giessel (R-Anchorage). “We want Alaskans to know that the Senate is pursuing every possible avenue for resolution.”
“We hear and share the sense of anxiety Alaskans feel today as our best efforts to override the budget vetoes fell short,” said House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (I-Dillingham). “Many paths remain for the Legislature and governor to restore the vetoed programs and services, to fully fund a capital budget, and to pass a PFD.”