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July 2, 2019 / This week from The Signal

What did the governor cut from the state budget?
What did he leave in?
And will the Legislature override his vetoes?
Alaska Office of Management and Budget Director Donna Arduin gives a broad overview of the budget items that Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed during a June 28 press conference in Juneau. (Photo by Sam McChesney/360 North)

But first… RIP Anchorage Nordstrom


It's going to be hard times in Anchorage soon, especially for anyone who appreciates business-casual fashion at a reasonable price. Alaska Public Media's Zachariah Hughes broke the bad news last week: The Nordstrom in downtown Anchorage is permanently shutting down in September. The store has been operating in Alaska's big city for 44 years, so its sudden departure came as a shock to some Anchoragites. For those looking for alternatives, the Anchorage Nordstrom Rack is sticking around for now. And personally, I like to keep my wardrobe snappy by shopping at the local Salvation Army. #fashionprotip

Michael and the Red Pen

The dust is still settling after Gov. Mike Dunleavy's big budget announcement. Let's get caught up on the line-item veto news. (Get ready: There's a lot.)

"It won't be easy."
Last Friday, the governor signed the state's operating budget for the next year. But just like my high school calculus tests, it came back with a lot of red ink on it. As Andrew Kitchenman of Alaska Public Media and KTOO points out, Dunleavy made 182 separate line-item vetoes on the budget bill. Given the current political split in the Legislature, it's unlikely that any of those vetoes will be overridden.

So what happens now? What does it all mean? Read on, Signalites.

University of Alaska
One of the state institutions hit hardest by Dunleavy's cuts is the University of Alaska. Reporter Dan Bross at KUAC-Fairbanks got reactions from UA President Jim Johnsen, who called the 40% reduction to the UA budget "devastating" and beyond what university officials had prepared for.

Alaska Supreme Court
Dunleavy used one of his line-item vetoes to punish the Alaska Supreme Court for upholding abortion laws. The governor, who is opposed to state funding for "elective" abortions, cut $335,000 from the Supreme Court's budget — the same amount the state pays annually for that specific type of medical procedure. Nat Herz of Alaska's Energy Desk gathered all the cheers and jeers for Dunleavy's decision.

Ocean Rangers
The governor also took an ax to the Ocean Rangers, a state program that monitors the cruise industry's environmental compliance. As CoastAlaska's Jacob Resneck points out, the program was paid for by a cruise ship passenger tax, meaning it was effectively budget-neutral. It's not clear what will happen now to the revenue collected from that tax.

School bonds
As bland as the phrase "school bond debt reimbursement" sounds, Alaskans in some cities and boroughs could be paying more in local property taxes because of it. KFSK-Petersburg's Joe Viechnicki tells us one of Dunleavy's vetoes cuts a large portion of the money that the state would have paid to municipalities to pay back bonds for school projects.

Seniors Benefits Program
Another program the governor nixed is the Senior Benefits Program, which offered financial assistance to low-income seniors for basic needs. KSTK-Wrangell's June Leffler reports that about 11,000 Alaskans will lose that benefit.

Village Public Safety Officers
At the annual State of the State address earlier this year, Dunleavy declared a "war on criminals." In spite of that, he cut $3 million from the Village Public Safety Officer program on Friday. But as Krysti Shallenberger of Alaska's Energy Desk reports, the state of Alaska got a generous gift from U.S. Attorney General William Barr on the same day — a gift that exceeds the amount cut by the governor.

Homeless shelters and services
Homeless shelters and services that depend on state funding will have to make some cuts — or even close entirely. Alaska Public Media’s Kirsten Swann reports that four grant programs for organizations working on homelessness were affected by Dunleavy's vetoes: Two were reduced, and two were eliminated completely.

Video of the week

In case you haven't seen it, here's the Gavel Alaska video of Gov. Mike Dunleavy's full press conference. On Friday, the governor delivered a statement about the operating budget and his line-item vetoes before taking questions from reporters. Dunleavy spokesperson Matt Shuckerow and Office of Management and Budget Director Donna Arduin were also called upon to help explain Dunleavy's budget decisions.

Just one more thing…

While the big story this week is the state budget, a storm's abrewin' already for next week. On Monday, the Legislature is scheduled to convene for a special session to work on permanent fund dividends. The problem is no one knows exactly where they'll convene.

The governor wants the session to be held at a middle school in Wasilla. But the House speaker and Senate president would rather meet up at the Capitol in Juneau. Neither side seems willing to back down at the moment — in fact, Dunleavy could even make a request for the Alaska State Troopers to round up legislators and send them to Wasilla. So, um, I guess we'll see what happens?

More (non-budget) news around Alaska

The Signal is written by KTOO digital media editor Ryan Cunningham
and edited by Alaska's Energy Desk reporter Rashah McChesney.

KTOO News is member supported.

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