Attorney General Kevin Clarkson entered into a legal agreement with the Alaska Legislature on Tuesday to ensure funds for public education will be disbursed even while a lawsuit over the 2018 “forward appropriation” of fiscal year 2020 funding proceeds.
The agreement was filed today with the court, the Department of Law wrote. It occurred after a planned non-payment of general funds to schools, which triggered a lawsuit by the Legislature.
The lawsuit was expected, and both the Legislature and governor are prepared to defend their interpretations of the law and the constitutional underpinnings in what both sides hope is an expedited process.
The governor says that the funding mechanism developed last year under Gov. Bill Walker provided funding for the next fiscal year, without having the money to appropriate.
“We have a clear constitutional disagreement between the executive and legislative branches,” said Attorney General Clarkson. “But that should not impact our schools. Both the governor and the legislature agree funding should continue, even if we disagree on whether there is a valid appropriation to fund schools. The stipulation ensures that funding continues while the courts review the legal arguments.”
The issue being addressed in court is whether the Legislature can commit future revenues that are not on hand in the State Treasury. This is how the Legislature has said it was “forward funding” education this fiscal year.
Attorney General Clarkson issued a formal opinion on May 8, when he said that the appropriation is unconstitutional and a new appropriation is needed.
The Legislature disagreed and decided not to pass a new appropriation, which left education without a constitutional source of funding, according to the Dunleavy Administration.