A large portion of Alaska’s Operating Budget is the Mental Health Budget, which is passed separately and sailed without controversy through Conference Committee this month during Special Session 1.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy is now pleading with the House Majority to free the Mental Health Budget, which has not yet not transmitted to him for his signature.
A letter sent to Sen. Peter Micciche and House Speaker Louise Stutes from Dunleavy says that time is of the essence.
“CCS HB 71 passed the legislature on June 16 with the requisite votes necessary for an immediate effective date. I understand the bill has been enrolled and is ready for transmittal. While the legislature continues its negotiations on the State’s FY 2022 operating and capital budget, there is no need to delay funding for the state’s integrated comprehensive mental health programs. It is my intent to sign the legislation once I’ve received the bill,” he said.
The governor’s proposed Mental Health Budget had $153 million in unrestricted general funds, $63.4 million in designated general funds, and $16.7 million in Mental Health Trust Authority funds.
HB 71, as it came out of Conference Committee, totals $247 million, and was approved by the Senate unanimously, while in the House the vote was 37-2, nearly unanimous, with Rep. Sara Rasmussen absent.
The Mental Health Budget pays for numerous programs that could continue even in the event of a shutdown by the Legislature, due to the defective Operating Budget that needs an effective date clause. The Mental Health programs are required by a court settlement from long ago so that Alaska’s mentally ill or mentally disabled residents would have the care they need.
“The budget contains funding for Medicaid, senior and disability services, community residential centers, rehabilitation services, recidivism grants, therapeutic courts, juvenile justice programs, Alaska Psychiatric Institute, the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, and other vital programs,” the governor wrote.
Trustees of the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority approve operating and capital budgets in two-year cycles, with annual recommendations to the governor and Legislature.
And although the trustees are authorized to spend the Trust’s income without legislative appropriation, they are required by statute to recommend to the governor and Legislature operating and capital budgets for state general funds to support the Comprehensive Integrated Mental Health Program. The funds are disbursed throughout many agencies in the government and nonprofit sector.
The governor must then propose and the Legislature must pass a separate bill, known as the Mental Health Budget, which includes budgets for Trust funds and state general funds.
But for some reason, the bill has not been transmitted to the Governor’s Office for his signature.