Gov. Dunleavy pledges not to reduce K-12 education spending with a caveat

Gov. Dunleavy talks about the possibility of vetoing budget items, or an entire budget, if a full PFD can't be provided to Alaskans. (KTUU)
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - Gov. Mike Dunleavy pledged not use his veto power to reduce K-12 education spending for Fiscal Year 2020 during an online town hall meeting held Tuesday afternoon.

“This year we won’t look at reducing the size of the education budget,” said the governor. “We will not veto that funding in any form or fashion, we will let that funding go through.”

There is a caveat, the legislature would need to add an appropriation for school funding in the operating budget that would be sent to the governor's desk.

The operating budgets passed by the Alaska House of Representatives and the Senate currently do not contain a funding item for schools, instead they rely on a forward funding measure passed in 2018.

In April, the Alaska Attorney General sent draft legal advice to lawmakers saying he believed that decision was unconstitutional, and that a spending item would need to be in the FY2020 budget.

Lawmakers said they had separate advice from the Division of Legislative Legal and Research Services that relying on forward funding was constitutional.

On Wednesday afternoon, Dunleavy held a town hall meeting on Facebook and answered questions on a wide variety of subjects, including the Permanent Fund Dividend, public safety, and K-12 education.

He told viewers that he had communicated with leadership in the Legislature that he would not cut spending for schools if it was put into the budget.

The pledge is a far cry from the beginning of the legislative session when the governor proposed more than $300 million in cuts to education.

Dunleavy called for work to continue in the interim to find ways to reform schools and reduce spending.

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