Mike Dunleavy

 

Gov. Mike Dunleavy visited the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center on Monday to announce that he plans to approve the Legislature’s restoration of state funding for the Senior Benefits Program.

The program, which serves more than 11,000 individuals, issues monthly financial assistance to low-income Alaskans over the age of 65. In June, Dunleavy vetoed $20.8 million from the program.

Last month the House and Senate approved House Bill 2001 which set the permanent fund dividend at $1,600 and restored about 80% of the approximately $444 million that Dunleavy vetoed from the operating budget. 

Now, the governor says the money is vital and will be funded at the same level as last year with retroactive payments going back to July 1.

“What we have decided to do is make sure that the funding for senior benefits is in this year’s budget going forward,” the governor said.

According to Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Krum, there is not a set date yet for when payments will begin to be distributed.

Dunleavy told residents of the center that after hearing feedback from Alaskans on the budget veto, he made the decision to allow it back into the budget.

“That feedback really resonated, not just with myself, but a lot of our legislators,” he said. “Part of the budget process is you have to listen to Alaskans, you have to listen to the people your budgets are impacting.”

The governor’s vetoes have sparked public protests, hours of public testimony at hearings across the state and continue to be a central force behind the statewide effort to recall Dunleavy.

The governor is expecting to reconfirm a majority of his budget vetoes and decide on a dividend amount later this week. 

In a discussion with members of the press last month, the governor said he considered the vast majority of his budget final.

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMPolitics.