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July 23, 2019 / This week from The Signal

Will the state of Alaska lose a billion dollars?
Why is everyone suing the governor?
And what's going to happen in ANWR?
When veterinarian Emily Iacobucci cut into this stranded gray whale carcass, it made a loose-helium-balloon sound of gas escaping. “Expected, but I didn’t expect it,” she laughed in surprise, knife still in hand. “Like, it totally makes sense, but I didn’t expect that to happen.” Scientists in Alaska are hoping to learn more about why an unusual number of whales like this one are dying off this year. (Photo and story by Kavitha George/KMXT-Kodiak)

But first… moose news from my dad


As KTOO's Senior Moose News Curator, it's my civic and professional duty to find all the Moose News You Can Use. Well this week, my dad did my job for me when he sent me a Facebook video of a moose sitting on a lawn sprinkler. The moose was spotted a couple weeks ago in a backyard in Anchorage, where record high temperatures have made getting blasted at close-range by a sprinkler seem like a pretty appealing activity for all creatures. I'm embarrassed that I missed this breaking moose news, given that the Anchorage Daily News reported on it nearly two weeks ago. But props and love to Old Man Cunningham for bringing it to my attention.

When a budget becomes reality

Before July 1, the budget was just a bunch of numbers.
  • Gavel to unravel: The state's operating budget is now in place after attempts to override Gov. Mike Dunleavy's vetoes fell short. But the Alaska Legislature has yet to pass the capital budget, which typically includes funding for things like construction and maintenance projects. Failure to pass that budget by July 31 could result in the state losing close to $1 billion in federal funding.
  • Exigencial crisis: The University of Alaska is moving swiftly to respond to a $130 million reduction in state funding. The university's board of regents voted Monday to declare financial exigency, which will give administrators more flexibility to make cuts. That decision comes amid a downgrade to the university's credit rating, making it the second-lowest rated flagship university in the country, according to a UA statement.
  • Climate estrange: The University of Alaska has been a leading institution for climate change research. But the university's funding for climate science projects could be in jeopardy, and that has big implications for the scientific community as well as for national security, according to the university’s president.
  • Cuts to meals: Organizations that cater to homeless and low-income Alaskans are making tough decisions as a result of state budget cuts, and Juneau's homeless shelter is no exception. The Glory Hall is planning on closing daily from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and cutting breakfast and lunch.

A ploy named 'sue'

A few lawsuits have already been filed as a result of the governor's budget decisions.
  • Meta-lawsuit: The ACLU is taking the governor to court over his cut to the state's court system, which the governor's office attributed to an Alaska Supreme Court ruling on elective abortions. Alaska Public Media's Zachariah Hughes has the details.
  • Medi-lawsuit: The Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association is suing over an emergency decrease in the state's rates for Medicaid payments to health care providers. Sounds complicated, right? Andrew Kitchenman of KTOO and Alaska Public Media can do a better job of explaining it than I can.
  • Mega-lawsuit: Another thing that Andrew explained to me is why the Legislature is suing the governor. I can at least tell you it has something to do with "forwarding funding" for public education, wherein the Legislature funds schools a year or two in advance. Dunleavy is against it; the Legislature is for it.

Video of the week

"Molly of Denali," the first nationally-broadcast kids' show to feature an Alaska Native character, debuted on PBS on July 15. Alaska Public Media's Wesley Early has more information about the people and purpose behind the show. You can officially start binging full episodes on the PBS KIDS website.

Just one more thing…

Alaska's Energy Desk has a new series of reports about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge called "The Future of the Arctic Refuge: Riches or Ruin?" Each story peels back the layers of the complex issues facing this critical region.

In the series, Liz Ruskin has profiled a powerful Iñupiat proponent of oil development; Elizabeth Harball got the story of a longtime Gwich'in activist fighting against drilling; and Nat Herz tells us about the Alaskan who might one day sign off on drilling in ANWR.

More news around Alaska

The Signal is written by KTOO digital media editor Ryan Cunningham
and edited by KTOO managing editor Jennifer Pemberton.

KTOO News is member supported.

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What are you waiting for? For an entertaining inside take on the biggest news in Alaska, try The Signal – just enter your email to get the latest edition delivered every week - it's free, we keep your email safe, and you can easily unsubscribe any time.