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Alaska Supreme Court Bans Education Funding, Confirms Limitation of Legislative Power

To James Brooks, Alaska Beacon

Has been updated: 37 minutes ago Release: 37 minutes ago

Alaska Supreme Court

The Alaska legislature cannot set multi-year budgets for public education or other state agencies without pre-funding, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled Friday. The decision resolved his three-year-long dispute between Congress and Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

It also represents a limitation of legislative power, calling for funding cuts to K-12 schools and marking a victory for Dunleavy against legislation in 2018 that would set the state’s school budget for two years.

Dunleavy later retracted the cut, but his administration argued the principle of the issue before the Supreme Court, leading to Friday’s ruling.

Justice Peter Maassen said on behalf of the court, “Concluded that the requirement to appropriate funds annually was implied in the language of the Alaska Constitution and was intended by the drafters.”

The ruling reinforces a 2017 decision that upheld the Governor’s and Congress’ ability to set the annual Endowment Fund dividend amount each year, regardless of the formula in state law.

Referring to the 2017 ruling, Maassen said, “I don’t see any language that justifies the use of a different rule in educational contests.”

“Allowing this form of up-front funding for education a year in advance opens the door to up-front funding in other situations, and even brings it forward many years to meet the constitutional enactment’s intended annual budget. It would undermine the organizing process,” he said.

“The Alaska Supreme Court upholds the Alaska Constitution with this opinion,” Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor said in a statement prepared after the judgment. “The ruling says Congress can always use the money it has this year or in the future. because you will steal it.”

The legal battle, which was settled on Friday, began with steps taken in 2018 when state legislators passed a bill that sets the amount of funding for K-12 schools for the two years of 2019 and 2020. .

government at the time. Bill Walker signed the bill into law, but lost to Dunleavy in the 2018 gubernatorial election.

The new governor has proposed cutting K-12 school spending in fiscal 2020 as part of a plan to pay out a larger Endowment Fund dividend. funding was not included in that year’s budget and said the amount had been set in the previous year.

Dunleavy’s attorney general at the time, Kevin Clarkson, opined that the decision was unconstitutional and left the school completely underfunded as a result.

As the executive branch prepared to stop funding all schools, Congress filed a lawsuit to force payment in accordance with the 2018 law.

Once the legal process began, Congress and the governor negotiated an agreement that would allow continued funding, and in November 2019, Superior Court Judge Daniel Schary joined Congress and the lawsuit on behalf of Congress. We ruled in favor of the educational group.

The executive branch has appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, where oral arguments will be held in March 2021.

Mersen said the constitution does not explicitly state that forward funding is prohibited, but the intent of the constitutional authors is clear from the context.

“There is implied in the Budget Clauses[of the Alaska Constitution]the requirement that the budget be determined annually. Taken together, the Budget Clauses, the sources from which they are Basic policy and our case law all support this conclusion.

Crucially for the current budget, the court ruling has not ruled out all upfront funding. If the state has sufficient funds on hand to pay for her two years of service, it can set a two-year budget.

Lawmakers did just that this spring, disbursing K-12 funding for fiscal 2023 and securing $1.2 billion in funding for K-12 schools in fiscal 2024, which begins after this year’s gubernatorial election. Dunleavy signed the budget bill.

“We recognize the importance of pre-notifying school districts of their annual budget and agree that the Constitution allows some degree of creativity to ensure this is accomplished,” the ruling said. says.

first published by alaska beaconan independent, nonpartisan news agency covering the Alaskan state government.