JUNEAU – Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee received a presentation from Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director, Donna Arduin, on Governor Michael Dunleavy’s FY 19 supplemental budget. Major cuts to the bipartisan budget passed in the 2018 legislative session include $20 million in education, $3 million to Village Public Safety Officers (VPSOs), $2 million in school bond debt reimbursement, and $1.2 million in broadband grants.
“Schools across this state have a desperate need for these resources. These funds were promised through our budgeting process in 2018 and I intend to honor them,” said Senator Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks). “Governor Dunleavy campaigned on being the education Governor and this is an unacceptable attack on our public education system. He is clearly not fulfilling his campaign promises to Alaskans.”
During questioning of the $20 million cut to education in Senate Finance this morning, the OMB Director noted that the money had not been disbursed by the state and said, “It is my contention that school districts and other entities seeking money or expecting money from the state should not be anticipating spending money that has not been allocated to them.” Contrary to her belief, the Legislature agreed and appropriated these education dollars in May of 2018.
“School districts throughout the state plan their budget in the spring and finalize those budgets after we conclude our budget process, and this is a direct threat to Alaskans’ trust in government,” said Sen. Kawasaki. “For the Director of OMB to conclude ‘if they haven’t spent it, it’s fair game to take it’ only halfway through the school year is short-sighted. Today she displayed her lack of knowledge with Alaska and how we conduct business and honor our word.”
In addition to the appropriations to VPSOs in the FY 19 budget, lawmakers included legislative intent to disburse funding for recruitment and retention of VPSOs.
“VPSOs are the first line of defense for tens of thousands of rural Alaskans. That money was appropriated last year to help recruit and retain highly qualified public safety officials, and I haven’t seen anything from this administration that has encouraged that desire,” said Senator Donny Olson (D-Golovin). “Pulling the rug out from underneath safe communities in rural Alaska is unacceptable. My constituents depend on these officers. I anticipate this is just the start of the broken promises of the Dunleavy Administration.”
Members of the press with questions may contact Alaska Senate Democratic Press Secretary, Noah Hanson at 465-5319.