Governor Warns Key Departments Facing Significant Budget Shortfalls
By MARY KAUFFMAN
June 01, 2019
According to the letter, dated May 23, the governor writes that funds for the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development's Title I and School Improvement Grants, the Department of Correction's Inmate Health Care, Health & Social Services' Medicaid and Health Care Services and the Alaska Psychiatric Institute are all about to run short of money. Also listed was the Department of Public Safety's Alaska State Troopers Personal Services.
Each of the line items, according to the governor's letter, were submitted to the Legislature through the supplemental appropriation process as necessary items to address and prevent a reduction in services, and in at least one case to eliminate a risk to life, health, and safety issues of patients and staff at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute.
"Had the Legislature been able to conclude work on HB 39 prior to the end of the first regular session, the supplemental appropriations would have been authorized, thus avoiding the short-fall situation that the departments now find themselves in," Gov. Dunleavy said.
Dunleavy wrote in his letter that there is no alternative to fund these items through the remainder of fiscal year 2019.
"I am requesting the the Conference Committee on HB 39 conclude their work in a timely manner and issue a report to each body to approve," wrote Governor Dunleavy.
The governor added that the Department of Law, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Department of Administration have begun steps to address the shortfalls if the Legislature does not pass a budget in time to rectify the lack of funding.
The Legislature is required by law to pass a budget by June 30 each year. Currently, there is no State budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2019.
On May 22nd, the day before the Governor sent his lette to the Alaska Senate and House Finance Committee chairs alerting them of shortfalls, Rep. Colleen Sullivan- Leonard (R-Wasilla) said in a news release that the threat of pink slips is now closer to a reality for Alaska’s teachers due to inaction by the House Finance Committee to fully fund education.
"We should not be playing politics with our children’s education," stated Rep. Sullivan- Leonard , House Finance Member, and one of the members of the committee who voted to move forward Governor Dunleavy's HB1001 Education Funding bill.
"Without this appropriation bill, there will be no funding for education in the operating budget. In essence, 'the bucket is empty' for funding education for FY2020,” added Rep. Sullivan- Leonard. “For this issue to be forced into court is irresponsible, costly, and contrary to what we as a citizen-legislature are tasked to do. We should have passed an operating and capital budget in a timely fashion during regular session – and that responsibility includes funding education.”
A valid appropriation is constitutionally required for the transfer of funds to the Public Education Fund and subsequently to our school districts. The legislature has yet to make a valid appropriation to fund education for the upcoming year.
Governor Dunleavy has publicly stated that he will not veto the K-12 education funds, so long as the legislature will add it to the budget.
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