Public media reporting on vetoes aims for consistency

Alaska news organizations have reported that Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed $444 million from the state’s operating budget. But news coverage published by Alaska Public Media and KTOO has used a smaller number of $390 million. There are a few reasons for this.

Unrestricted General Fund

The $390 million figure is the portion of the overall cuts that come from state funding controlled by the Legislature in the annual budget process, technically known as “unrestricted general fund revenue.” The public media news stories have focused on this number in part because it’s the number the Legislature focuses on. It does not include federal funds that the state receives, often as part of a match for state spending.

Consistent with the focus of the legislative session

Another reason public media news stories have focused on the $390 million figure is that it is consistent with the total state-funded portion of the budget that has been the focus of the legislative session. That amount is $4 billion including Dunleavy’s vetoes, which is an overall reduction of $629 million from the amount in the last budget.

Including federal and state sources, the budget is $9.9 billion.

Consistency over time

Finally, our coverage has focused on both the $390 million veto amount and the $4 billion overall budget amount because these numbers are consistent with the amounts that state public media has reported in previous budgets. And this also adds to the clarity of public media’s coverage over time. Public officials of different parties have a history of emphasizing larger or smaller budget amounts at different times — statewide public media coverage aims for consistency that will promote public understanding.

The focus on the $390 million figure does not mean that public media is ignoring the importance of the impact of the loss of federal funding.

 

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