Governor asked about debate comments on education budget cuts
Gov. Mike Dunleavy made it clear prior to releasing his newly proposed budget that there would be changes in how the state spends money.
"Part of the platform I ran on as a candidate was to fix this budget," he said at a news conference this week. "We're going to fix this budget this year."
But deep cuts proposed for education stunned a lot of educators, including a proposed $320 million cut to the Department of Education.
The Anchorage School District expects to lose more than $110 million due to budget cuts.
"This is unrealistic," said ASD School Board President Starr Marsett. "A school district can't operate this way and it's pretty much dismantling education. And I think what people need to understand is if this is what we're looking at, nothing's safe. Sports isn't safe. Music isn't safe."
University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen is predicting dire consequences if a $134 million cut to the UA System goes through.
"I'm confident we will need to close campuses if this cut makes it all the way through the legislative process," said Johnsen. "We will need to eliminate a lot of programs. We will reduce services, no question about that."
Cutting education did not appear to be a theme of Dunleavy's run for governor. In fact, he said he would not cut education during two KTVA debates, including one with Republican opponent Mead Treadwell, before the primary election.
Referring to his prior experience as an educator, Dunleavy said, "There were battles everyday in taking care of kids. There were battles everyday in helping parents understand how the educational process works. There were battles everyday in trying to get the adequate funding for our schools," Dunleavy said during the debate.
Treadwell and Dunleavy were asked if they would cut public education.
"Not at this time," replied Dunleavy.
During the same debate KTVA also asked if the two would cut the University of Alaska.
"No for now," replied Dunleavy.
KTVA asked the same question during a debate with Democrat Mark Begich ahead of the general election.
"No plans. Get them land grants for funding," replied Dunleavy.
KTVA asked the Governor's Office to respond to comments the governor made on the campaign trail involving education budget cuts, compared to cuts he proposed this week.
Press Secretary Matt Shuckerow replied in a statement Thursday saying, "The statements made during the campaign and the budget proposed yesterday are not in conflict. Alaska's fiscal standing today sits in stark contrast to where we were just months ago – highlighted by the wishful thinking of the previous administration's $75 per barrel oil projections. The governor's message – we're out of time, we're out of money, we can't spend more than we have."
While announcing his budget, Gov. Dunleavy said it will impact all Alaskans.
He and his staff defended the budget saying it was driven by a $1.6 billion deficit with no new taxes to Alaskans, a full dividend and a budget that is balanced.
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