Gov. Mike Dunleavy is set to sign House Bill 2001, the Legislature’s attempt to restore about 80% of the governor’s more than $444 million in operating budget vetoes, today. But it remains unknown how many of the governor’s 182 original line-item vetoes he plans to maintain.
As passed last month by the Legislature, the bill would restore funding to areas of the budget such as Medicaid, Alaska State Council on the Arts, public broadcasting, the Ocean Ranger program, community assistance grants, the Village Public Safety Officer program and others.
Over the past week, the governor has backtracked on a number of his previous budget cuts in areas such as early education programs; the Senior Benefits program, which provides financial assistance to low income seniors; the University of Alaska; and Alaska Legal Services, which provides pro bono legal assistance to low income Alaskans.
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 stepping back on budget cuts to the university, Senior Benefits, Head Start and pre-K funding is not related to the quickly growing recall effort launched Aug. 1.
The governor’s office also announced the restoration of funding to the OWL Online with Libraries and Live Homework Help programs Friday, both of which assist education collaboration across the state.
The governor had originally announced his intention to sign HB 2001 by the end of last week, but, according to Dunleavy spokesman Matt Shuckerow, the bill was still being reviewed as of Friday.
This bill will also decide the amount of this year’s permanent fund dividend. The Legislature included a $1,600 dividend, an amount which the governor has said he is unlikely to support. In his mind, Dunleavy said, the dividend should be separate from the budget, adding that he feels the annual payout should still be based on the 1982 statute setting the current projected dividend amount at around $3,000.
Paying a full $3,000 dividend would cost the state approximately $1.2 billion.
Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMPolitics.