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Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s veto of $335,000 from the Alaska Court System should concern any citizen who values the American form of government.
In short, Dunleavy cut the judiciary’s budget because he didn’t like a decision by the Alaska Supreme Court. The dollar amount of the cut was said to be equal to the amount the decision cost the state.
That the court — a co-equal and separate branch of government — would face retributution from the executive branch for operating within the scope of the courts’ constitutional powers represents a clear breach of the separation of powers doctrine that has long served this nation and state well.
If this veto stands, what’s next?
• More budgetary or other retribution for any court decision that the governor doesn’t like?
• Punitive budget reductions beyond actual “costs” of a decision?
• Budget increases when the courts decide in the governor’s favor?
• Big budget increases when a court decision results in a huge fine that fills government coffers?
Couldn’t happen? Who knows. Dunleavy is opening Pandora’s Box with this veto and its intent to erode judicial independence.
The arguments in support of the veto are specific to the subject involved in the Supreme Court’s ruling. Supporters of the veto would be wise to remember that administrations change. And when they do, would not a judicuary free from undue executive interference be of great value?
This is the central point. The judicial branch of the government is co-equal to the executive and legislative branches. It has performed its designated function. The spectacle of an Alaska governor targeting the Alaska Court System because he doesn’t like a decision should be seen as as vindictive as it is coercive, and disturbingly contrary to a core philosphy of American government.