The Alaska Court System has issued a statement in response to two line-item vetoes of its budget by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, taking note of one veto that was the governor's response to a Supreme Court abortion ruling with which he disagreed.
One of Dunleavy's two court system vetoes was for $334,700 from the appellate courts, which includes the Supreme Court, and is listed in his veto document as the amount spent on abortion services through Medicaid in fiscal 2018. A spreadsheet notation with the veto reads: “The Legislative and Executive Branch are opposed to State funded elective abortions; the only branch of government that insists on State funded elective abortions is the Supreme Court. The annual cost of elective abortions is reflected by this reduction.”
The court system statement, which is not attributed to any one member of the court system and does not specifically mention that abortion ruling, emphasizes that the courts are a co-equal branch of government.
"At its most basic, this means that the Legislature makes the law, the governor enforces the law, and the Supreme Court, when faced with a constitutional challenge to a law, is required to decide it," the statement issued Wednesday morning reads. "Legislators, governors, and all other Alaskans certainly have the right to their own opinions about the constitutionality of government action, but ultimately it is the courts that are required to decide what the constitution mandates.
"In a democracy based on majority rule, it is important that laws be interpreted fairly and consistently," the statement reads. "We assure all Alaskans that the Alaska Court System will continue to render independent court decisions based on the rule of law, without regard to the politics of the day."
Dunleavy also vetoed $1.76 million that the Legislature appropriated for 3% cost-of-living allowances for the court system's non-union, non-judicial staff. The court system cost-of-living reductions were made through several vetoes for each of the court system's subunits, and each carried the same veto notation:
"This reduces funding added for salaries, and continues following statutory guidelines for exempt employee salaries. The state's fiscal reality dictates a reduction in expenditures across all agencies."
The court system's Wednesday statement addressed the wage veto.
"In response to Alaska’s recent financial crisis and in recognition that the court system has a duty to be a good steward of the public’s money, we proposed and the Legislature made significant reductions to the court system’s operating budget, reductions that resulted in the closure of all courts statewide on Friday afternoons and a consequent reduction of your salaries by 4% over the past three years, a cut not shared by the other two branches of government," the statement reads. "In fairness we urge the legislature to restore the cost of living allowances that will return you to equal footing with employees of the executive and legislative branches."
Contact News-Miner Editor Rod Boyce at 459-7585. Follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/FDNMeditor.