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Governor Dunleavy: “Failing to Fund Education in Budget Ignores Constitution”

May 8, 2019

Wednesday, May 8, 2019 (Juneau) – Yesterday, during a Facebook Live Townhall, Alaska Governor Michael J. Dunleavy addressed questions pertaining to the absence of education funding in Fiscal Year 2020 budget proposals currently making their way through the Alaska State House and Senate.

Heeding the advice and guidance of House Republicans and his Attorney General, Governor Dunleavy believes “failing to fund education in the budget ignores the constitution” and “creates a situation where education will not be funded after June 30, 2019.” As a result, Governor Dunleavy has called on the Legislature to avoid a precedent-setting constitutional standoff by funding education in the FY2020 budget, which he “will not veto… in any form or fashion.”

“We have said to legislators ‘Make sure you fund education, make sure it’s in the budget,’ because there’s questions right now as to whether there is funding in the budget, we’re having those discussions…,” said Governor Dunleavy. “Although we initially proposed reductions in education, we have said to legislative leadership ‘put the funding in, make sure there’s funding in the budget and we will not veto that funding in any form or fashion.’ We will let that funding go through, so we can have that conversation going into next year on what reforms we want to look at in education.”

Both the House and Senate FY2020 budget’s fail to include funding for education, a position based on the belief that future funding of education was made during the Second Session of the Thirtieth Legislature. However, the 2018 future funding provision failed to include actual dollars and clearly attempted to bind the hands of a future legislature and governor. According to an April 9, 2019 review by the Alaska Attorney General, that action violates the Alaska Constitution’s prohibition against dedicating future revenues and providing for an annual budget where the legislature and the governor can considering annual funding priorities.

On April 30th, 2019, the Alaska House Republicans called on the Senate and House Majorities to fully fund K-12 base student allocations in the FY20 operating budget. Recognizing the views of the House Republicans and the volume of legislative work currently on the table, Governor Dunleavy has offered to push the conversation on education funding and reform until next year.

“This year we won’t look at reducing the size of the education budget if they put the funding in, so that we can have the conversation over the summer into the fall, make this coming year an education reform year, where we all work together to see how we can change things to get the outcomes we know we should have for all kids, regardless of what school, school district or part of the state that they’re in,” said Governor Dunleavy.

A full Attorney General opinion on the 2018 future funding of education will be released in the coming days. If the FY20 operating budget is passed without education funding, it would set up a scenario where education funds would not be transferred or paid out on July 1, 2019.