Opening arguments are set to begin today in Anchorage in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska against Gov. Mike Dunleavy for his veto of funding from the appellate court system over a years-old abortion ruling.
In his list of 182 operating budget line-item vetoes released this summer, Dunleavy cut $334,700 from the Alaska Appellate Court system, citing his disapproval of a ruling in which the court upheld the
constitutionality of using Medicaid funding for legal abortions.
The ACLU filed the lawsuit in July shortly after Dunleavy released his vetoes.
Next to the column in which he struck the courts funding, Dunleavy explained he was vetoing the exact amount Alaska spent on Medicaid funded abortions in 2018.
“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,” Dunleavy wrote. “The annual cost of elective abortions is reflected by this reduction. The Federal Government also prohibits any federal funds paying for elective abortions.”
ACLU of Alaska Director Joshua Decker called the veto “vindictive.”
The group is suing the governor over the alleged violation of the Alaska Constitution’s separation of powers clause. The clause prohibits one branch of government from encroaching on the authority of another branch, which the ACLU’s lawsuit alleges is what Dunleavy did by punishing the courts for their ruling.
“This isn’t just a squabble between two branches of government. This brazen, unprecedented act from Gov. Dunleavy erodes the constitutional guarantee of the separation of powers, which is a hallmark of a democratic society,” said ACLU of Alaska Legal Director Stephen Koteff. “The great magnitude of public significance in this case is glaring. If we don’t check this now, and we allow the governor to openly abuse his power, our liberty, democracy and our core system of checks and balances will be gravely compromised.”
Koteff will represent the ACLU of Alaska in today’s court proceedings. Arguments are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. in Boney Courthouse Room 30.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.