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By DAN ORTIZ
On Monday, Aug. 19, Gov. Dunleavy released his full list of special session budget vetoes. The Alaska Legislature passed two special session budget bills in July with the primary intention of restoring the governor’s original vetoes and protecting certain funding sources, such as the Higher Education Investment Fund and the Power Cost Equalization Fund.
In the original budget passed in June (House Bill B39), we included continued funding for the Senior Benefits Program, the University of Alaska, early learning programs, and the Alaska State Council on the Arts. Gov. Dunleavy vetoed these items originally but decided not to veto them during this second round of budget choices. Those programs and items will be included in the Fiscal Year 2020 budget.
Gov. Dunleavy did veto public broadcasting, the Ocean Ranger program, partial funding for our Village Public Safety Officers program, behavioral health and recovery grants, and more, which can be found online at the Alaska Office of Management and Budget website. He also vetoed an additional $5 million from our ferry system, which would have ensured that Cordova and the Prince William Sound region received limited service during the winter months. These items will not be in the FY20 budget.
Some vetoed items will lead to a loss of matching federal funds, such as adult public assistance, $50 million from Medicaid, and an additional $27 million from Medicaid preventative dental coverage for adults. Other vetoed programs will not save the state money because they are not funded through state dollars (referred to as Unrestricted General Funds or UGF). For example, the $3.4 million for the Ocean Ranger Program that was cut is entirely funded and administered through a cruise ship passenger fee. Similarly, the Agriculture Revolving Loan Fund funds itself, yet has been vetoed. These monies cannot be reappropriated for anything else, leaving money on the table.
The governor also vetoed 50% of our School Bond Debt Reimbursement program, which will directly affect local budgets. Without this expected income, local taxes will likely go up to accommodate unplanned education construction costs.
In regard to our Alaska Department of Fish & Game, the governor chose to uphold the veto of $997,000 to the Commercial Fisheries for the management of stocks statewide; specifically, the Southeast Region was cut by $257,800. These cuts will likely result in less fish catch opportunity for our commercial fishing fleets. Some funding was restored for travel for Commercial Fisheries, which is essential for proper management of our fishery resources.
The total amount of Unrestricted General Fund dollars that the governor’s vetoes will save is $101 million. In comparison, the Legislature’s original FY20 budget, after deliberate study and careful cuts, was $190 million less than the FY19 budget. The budget also includes a $1,600 PFD for every Alaskan, which equals approximately $1.1 billion (nearly 10 times the amount of the governor’s vetoes). If the Legislature were to appropriate a $3,000 PFD, it would cost a total of over $2 billion.
As always, if you have any questions of comments, you can reach me at Rep.Dan.Ortiz@AKLeg.gov.
Rep. Dan Ortiz, I-Ketchikan, represents House District 36 in the Alaska House of Representatives.