House, Senate agree to sue governor over forward funding of education


The House and Senate today agreed to delegate authority to the Legislative Council to proceed with a lawsuit that should determine if forward appropriating education is constitutional, when money is not actually set aside for that purpose.

In other words, is a Legislature’s promissory note for future fiscal years something that holds water in constitutional terms?

Alaska does not have a biennial budget, like some other states. It does its budget every year; the 2020 fiscal year starts July 1. The FY 2020 budget is so far, unfunded because the operating budget has not passed. But last year, the Legislature forward-appropriated funding for the FY 2020 education budget.

But the governor says that action is not legal. He has asked the Legislature to put the FY 2020 appropriation into this year’s budget. And his Attorney General has backed him up on the assertion.

What happens next? The Legislative Council will meet and direct the Legislature’s attorney Megan Wallace to file a lawsuit against the governor. The Attorney General will defend the governor’s position.

Meanwhile, the courts may decide that education must be funded while the question is decided.

The last time the Legislature sued the Office of the Governor was in 2015, when Gov. Bill Walker expanded Obamacare-Medicaid via executive order, after the Legislature had balked on such an expansion. The case was dropped by the Legislative Council after losing in Superior Court. The case cost the Legislature $300,000 and cost the Walker Administration $137,000 in legal expenses. It dragged on for months.

In that lawsuit, lawmakers framed it as a constitutional question of who had the power to appropriate — the Legislature or the governor.

In this lawsuit, Rep. Tammie Wilson, co-chair of House Finance, said it was the governor who had picked a fight: “That’s on them,” she said. “We fund our budget this way all the time.” She made it a point to criticize Dunleavy on the House floor.

But Sen. Gary Stevens sees it differently.

“This is no attempt to poke the governor in the eye,” said Sen. Stevens, co-chair of Legislative Council. “This is a separation of powers issue. We will not do anything until the governor withholds the money for education.”

House Speaker Bryce Edgmon explained that the governor has invited the question to be decided, and that since the governor does not have the ability to sue the Legislature, the Legislature must initiate the lawsuit.

“Let’s settle this issue. Does the authority of the legislature include forward funding of the Legislature?” said Senate President Cathy Giessel.

Rep. Lance Pruitt, who leads the House Republican Minority, said the consequences are monumental if the Legislature wins the case, as it will allow the body to appropriate for as many years ahead as it wishes and for as many departments as it chooses, with no funding or budget projections to back up the promise.

The governor has said numerous times he would not veto the education budget but wanted it to be actually appropriated in this year’s budget. At this stage, there is no budget for him to veto since it has not been transmitted to him, but he’s likely to veto the entire budget if it does not contain education funding.


  1. So, if forward funding is ok, what are the limits? If the legislature had been on board with Walker, could it have fully forward funded Walker’s pet gas pipeline project? For 10 years? In any amount? Can only the legislature effectively undo forward funding by a bill to change the forward funding provision? If there is not an appropriation of money into a fund at the time of the enactment of the forward funding appropriation, does that mechanism dedicate future revenue to a specific purpose?

    This will definitely be a fascinating case to watch.

  2. It is indeed unfortunate that our elected legislators are afraid to confront the huge, powerful education industry. An industry that has failed thousands of Alaskan children. I now hold the legislature responsible for the mediocre performance of our K12 education system. It is on them. They own it.

    • David,
      I agree with you and remember the problem goes all the way to the University level as UAA has failed to maintain accreditation for Teachers and many students were left to transfer or change degrees until things are better.
      Administration officials throughout the system should be held accountable and face the same Austerity measures as Alaskans throughout the state.

  3. You bunch of idiots in the Legislature just dont understand that we have a very popular and STRONG governor of the people. Giessel should know better. Its Trump Derangement Syndrone here in Alaska. Drain the Swamp, Governor. Take all 60 morons down with the grey water. It’s about preserving the will of the PEOPLE, not a bunch of effing idiots, who all think they should be the governor.

    • Sure, throw the baby out with the bathwater. Nobody is sicker than I am of RINO’s, Murkowski’s, Wilson’s, Knopp’s, and their ilk, but there are a good dozen minority House members and lots of senators to make the nucleus of a conservative gov’t to be proud of. An uninformed electorate is at the root of our problems today, both state and federal. Are you part of the low information voter crowd? If not, I suggest you work to get rid of the liars, and elect/reelect people who will represent our wishes.

      • Indeed reelect those conservatives who are TRULY conservative in their actions. Not back-stabbing, cut-throated RINO’s (Wilson, Knopp, etc…). The whole issue with the Legislature is with those that ran as Republican conservative and then caved to special interests (and their own) and turned traitors. Every constituent in districts that have one or two of the “Benedict Arnolds” should seriously vet the next candidate with extreme care!

        • What The Joker is trying to say is that Governor Dunleavy was elected because Alaskans wanted change, not the same noise from a bunch of crybaby politicians. This is a power struggle between a strong executive branch and a gallery of clowns in the legislative branch. Wilson and Knopp are clowns. Both have proven to be disrupters. If a poll was taken now, Dunleavy would still have the rallying support of the people. And that must really piss off those pompous clowns in the House and Senate.

          • The Governor is not against the spending for education on our young people. He is against the miserable way that money is appropriated under the guise of education. ie, TEACHERS UNIONS, controlled by the MOB. Take it to them Dunleavy. Teach these idiots in the Legislature how to bust up the teachers unions. Take away the MONEY. I love this governor.

  4. Forward “funding”? Create a giant, unfunded liability, getting worse every year? Hear that “sucking” sound? Other peoples’ money spent in advance, now? How stupid can one “group” be? Unfunded liabilities are on the verge of bankrupting most of the liberal strongholds (cities and states, both) as I write this. These dims and rinos (I say that with disrespect) wouldn’t last one month, running a legitimate business. Businesses are limited to spending within their means or borrowing to make up the difference. That “borrowing” for spending, using your business (or personal) assets as collateral, is called “negative cash flow”. The first and one of the most serious realizations that you have screwed up, is losing your source of credit. Usually followed by accelerated demand to pay what you already owe. Next thing a business knows, it’s too late. That’s what our Alaska “legislature” is trying to do to Alaskans. Alaska’s spending should be maintained exactly like a business that is successful and has enough revenue to not have to borrow, to cover expenses. Spend within our means. Unfunded liabilities are just that. Unfunded, meaning NOT PAID FOR, Liabilities, meaning, what you owe, over and above your revenue and assets. Survival 101, for any business.

    The State of Alaska owes it’s citizens fiduciarily responsible management of our money (revenue). That is the exact opposite of what the fools driving the ‘legislative clown car’, have in mind for Alaska and Alaskans. If we didn’t have Governor Dunleavy in charge, Alaska would already be sold down the river. Remember to vote.

    • With respect, Ben, the “business” is what buyers pay Alaska lobbyists $20M a year to get from the Peoples Imperial Legislature.
      Apparently the titans of Alaska’s education industry now want what they paid for, which productive Alaskans might see as simply more money for an already overpriced, poorly performing product.
      And they’ll get it.
      And in the near future, productive Alaskans will get an income tax, sales tax, and education tax under the pretext of paying for their education industry.
      That is, unless the populist movement which seems to be starting in the rest of the world gets going in Alaska too.

      • The best money we could spend is to hire all of the lobbyists. $20 million is peanuts compared to the damage they inflict.

        If we can’t or won’t do that, we should make them wear orange safety vests with “Lobbyist” across the back anytime they are conducting business.

      • There are at least 2 former “titans of Alaska’s education industry” in this administration. When did they heel turn?

  5. Better start thinking about getting some monster truck tires for that bus. We’re gonna need them.

    The “sucking sound” is the end of the broader “conservatives” circling the realpolitik drain.

  6. So if I say I am going to forward fund my budget for next year, without actually funding it, and then I lose my job and cannot afford to actually fund my previous years forward funded (that was not funded) budget can I just tell the mortgage company and credit card companies that the bills were already appropriated last year and there is nothing to worry about even though I would have no income and no way to pay them? This is what these elected representatives are arguing. They can forward fund whatever they want, IF they actually provide the funding in the year they do the forward funding, they did not do that in this case.

  7. I could see some justification forward funding within the 2-year term of the Legislature (this is the 31st – 2019-2020) but never across one elected legislature to another.
    Clarkson and Dunleavy I believe are correct on this issue.

  8. Hi there,

    My name is Kobe Rizk and I am the college intern at Must Read Alaska. I noticed the high commenting activity on this post. I want to encourage you to view our newly launched political forum on the website. To do this, go to the MRAK home screen and select the “Forums” tab at the top menu bar. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at [email protected], or if you would prefer, reach out to Suzanne. You have the ability to create your own topics and discussions, and I would encourage you to share these with fellow MRAK readers. We would love to see some more activity on this new and exciting part of the MRAK project.


  9. Stop funding the indoctrination process (aka, K-12, Post Secondary Education).

    It is what it is.

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