The Legislature passed the FY 21 operating budget and FY 20 supplemental, and the FY 21 Mental Health Budget up to the Governor before going into recess. By the constitution, the Governor has 15 days, Sundays excluded, to take action on a bill while the Legislature is in session - and the Legislature is still technically in session.
The Governor’s budget action is due by April 17. If the Governor makes significant cuts to these budgets, the Legislature can reassemble until May 20 (the constitutional 120 day limit to session) to consider overriding these cuts with a ¾ vote of the bodies. This is an extremely high bar, and the Legislature has been unsuccessful in the past (remember last session?). Alaskans do not need the additional burden of slashed state services as we put our collective sights on weathering the COVID-19 emergency. We must convey to the Governor asap that given the medical, social, and economic uncertainty of the times, he must leave the budgets as carefully crafted by the Legislature intact. No vetoes.
Many Alaskans are upset that a large PFD was not included in the budget this year. Kodiak Rep. Louise Stutes explains very clearly the rationale for not including a larger allocation this year:
“I’d like to take a moment to address the PFD. As your representative, I understand what the PFD means to rural Alaska and want the check to be as large as possible; that is true now more than ever. However, I also must balance that with providing essential services like ferry service, education, public safety, the ability to pay future dividends, and the financial position of the state in general. Paying more than a $1,000 PFD would have dangerously jeopardized the state’s ability to provide for essential services and PFDs in the future, as well as respond to unexpected expenses.
The state began the year in bad shape financially, and our position has only degraded. Oil has plummeted to $21 per barrel, there is a $1.1 billion budget deficit, we are in the midst of a public health emergency, and our last savings account is being virtually liquidated. The Legislative Finance Division has always advised that the state needs to maintain at least $1 billion in the Constitutional Budget Reserve (CBR) for unexpected expenses or emergencies; this certainly qualifies. With this budget, assuming no vetoes by the Governor, the CBR is now less than $500 million, and the state’s expenses regarding COVID-19 are yet unknown. As much as I want to provide for more than a $1,000 PFD this year, doing so would have been extremely irresponsible.” - Cordova Times, April 3, 2020
The Governor hears a drum-beat from his base to continue cutting the budget, to the bone, if necessary, to fund a large PFD. He needs to hear from you that you value essential state services, and you want a budget signed now with no vetoes. You can take action here >>
Stay Safe, Alaska
For further reading - Our friends at Save Our State put together a helpful analysis of the Budgets that recently passed the Legislature >>
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