In his fourth veto backstep this week, Gov. Mike Dunleavy has said he will allow the Legislature’s restoration of funding for Alaska Legal Services Corporation to stand, according to an announcement made Wednesday by Attorney General Kevin Clarkson.
Dunleavy had previously slashed funding for the nonprofit legal assistance group in his first set of operating budget vetoes in June, but the Legislature restored the funding in House Bill 2001, passed last month, which put back approximately 80% of the governor’s vetoes.
The governor called the move “an important step in protecting Alaska’s most vulnerable.”
The agreement between the Department of Law and ALSC clarifies that the $759,000 in state funding is to be used to assist victims of sexual assault and domestic violence in civil cases
ALSC Executive Director Nikole Nelson praised the funding return, noting the firm will direct the funding toward those types of cases.
“Helping survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault is a vital service provided by our organization,” Nelson said in a statement. “We are relieved that this funding will remain available and excited to continue our efforts in addressing the unacceptable rates of domestic abuse and sexual violence that plague our state.”
The restored funding accounts for all state funding for the corporation and about 15% of the corporation’s total funding. Historically, state funding was allocated to the organization without caveats on which areas of focus are to be funded.
Nelson told Anchorage Daily News that she’s not quite sure which services will suffer as a result of the specific designation for the funding.
“I can’t tell you exactly what exactly will get pushed aside,” she told the ADN.
Up until a week ago, Dunleavy had told reporters he considered the majority of his budget vetoes “final,” but this week the governor allowed the restoration of funding to the ALSC in addition to the state’s Senior Benefits Program, the University of Alaska and the state’s early childhood education programs such as Head Start, Parents as Teachers and Best Beginnings.
The governor told reporters his intention with his extensive list of budget vetoes was never to cause “angst” but rather to begin a conversation among Alaskans about budgetary priorities.
Dunleavy said he and his team had been working on this for some time, and the backstep on budget cuts to the university, Senior Benefits and Head Start and pre-K funding is not related to the quickly growing recall effort launched Aug. 1.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter:@FDNMPolitics.