AKLEG Day 34: Legislators find little justification for proposed school cuts: ‘That’s the wrong answer’

Sen. Click Bishop during a Senate Finance Committee meeting on Feb. 13, 2019. (Photo by Alaska Senate Majority press)

The start of the sixth week of the legislative session continued frustrating budget overviews for the Senate Finance Committee where efforts to understand the budget were met with hollow answers, and the House still doesn’t have its committee assignments announced.

(Note: I’m wrapping up a vacation. Wednesday is the big travel-back-to-Alaska day so we’ll be back on Thursday.)

Today is day 35.

‘This is what it looks like to pay out a full dividend’

Those were the words of Senate Finance Committee co-chair Sen. Natasha von Imhof during Monday’s Senate Finance Committee hearing on the budget during an overview of the cuts Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy is proposing for education (somewhere in the neighborhood of a 25 percent to undesignated general funding for K-12 schools and programs).

It’s a frank admission from the majority that the Senate has been working toward for the previous 34 days of session with statements about defending the corpus of the Alaska Permanent Fund and concerns about how paying out bigger PFDs could jeopardize the account into the future. If it’s not entirely clear yet, that $6,700 PFD ain’t happening this year and you better not be holding your breath on a $3,000 PFD either.

At least as long as the Legislature is getting nearly zero backup from the administration for the reasoning behind the cuts. Monday’s session was yet another lesson in futility as senators attempted to the slightest bit of explanation for the cuts.

Here’s the exchange between Fairbanks Republican Sen. Click Bishop and Office of Management and Budget Director Donna Arduin over how education cuts would impact performance, according to KTOO:

Fairbanks Republican Sen. Click Bishop asked about the proposed $312 million reduction in the share of the education and early development budget controlled by the Legislature.

Arduin replied that the proposal is based on Dunleavy’s commitment to maintaining state savings.

We’re doing this because the state is out of money, and we need to balance our budget,” she said.

Bishop wasn’t pleased: “With all due respect, ma’am, that’s the wrong answer.”

While Bishop and others were fuming over the budget, others like von Imhof are begging the administration for some cover with the cuts. Von Imhof said she would have liked to see more suggestions from the Dunleavy administration as to how it planned to help the districts cope with the changes.

“I would just think that there would have been more of a plan when rolling out one of our top constitutional requirements here, on (the state’s) obligation for education,” von Imhof said, according to KTOO, later adding: “There just seems to be cuts and then nothing more. It’s like, incomplete.”

Murkowski

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski sat down with the Juneau Empire ahead of her address to legislators scheduled for 11 a.m. today. She talked the shutdown, knocked the Green New Deal and said she was wary about efforts to put the “PFD over everything.

“The dividend at the expense of everything else takes us to a place I’m not sure is healthy for us,” she said.

Alaska’s congressional delegation has typically steered clear of wading too far into state politics. It’ll be interesting to see how the PFD and everything else may fit in today’s speech.

What we’re reading:

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2 Comments on "AKLEG Day 34: Legislators find little justification for proposed school cuts: ‘That’s the wrong answer’"

  1. Why should Alaska and Alaskans continue to subsidize the commercial fishing industry.

    Exports 6 billion pounds of seafood, at $6 billion in wholesale value, yet needs $30 million every year in state subsidies to cover cost of management? For a private industry, controlled primarily by multinational companies with headquarters outside of Alaska.

    Comm fish takes 98 percent of all seafood harvested in Alaska and ships to feed people elsewhere in the world, and can’t even pay its bar tab to the state.

    How sad is that.

  2. “and we need to balance our budget,” she said. I doubt Donna Arduin will be living here when the results of “our budget” come to fruition.

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