Former Alaska AG Lindemuth: Governor's cuts are unconstitutional
Alaska's former attorney general is vocal about her opposition to Gov. Mike Dunleavy's budget vetoes. Jahna Lindemuth, who served as attorney general during the Walker administration from 2016 to 2018, has written several opinion pieces in the Anchorage Daily News — including one in which she says Dunleavy's cuts are unconstitutional.
Lindemuth cites Article 7 of the Alaska Constitution, which establishes the state's university system and specifies that the Legislature shall provide for the promotion as well as the protection of public health.
"When you take veto cuts of $444 million and you target Alaska's most vulnerable and that results in an increase in crime — which is exactly what I expect to happen is that our crime statistics will get worse immediately if not by next year. Given that the constitution requires our government to protect the health, safety, welfare and education of our folks, I believe that results in an unconstitutional act by the governor," Lindemuth said in an interview with KTVA 11's Daybreak.
If lawmakers don't vote to overturn the governor's vetoes, Lindemuth, who now works in private practice, says she expects to be involved in a legal challenge.
"I have been talking with various folks about different aspects of the vetoes and I expect that I will be involved in some litigation that goes forward," Lindemuth said.
However, the former attorney general said using the courts to solve the problem is not very effective, since court cases take time and it could be a year or more before courts address the issues.
The largest line-item veto was a $130 million reduction in UA's budget. Lindemuth says the state's constitutional obligation to education extends to higher education.
"Article 7 not only references public education for K-12, but actually establishes our university system," Lindemuth said.
The House Finance Committee held a hearing July 9 to consider the impact of veto overrides. The Legislature needed 45 votes to override the governor's vetoes but failed by the constitutional deadline of July 12.
At a July 15 press conference, Dunleavy noted that the constitution provides executive authority for the governor to issue vetoes.
"I find it difficult to believe you would have a constitutional amendment or a constitutional tool for the governor on the veto side of things, and the idea that when you veto, it's unconstitutional," the governor said. "There is not necessarily agreement with the former attorney general from a number of lawyers and the constitutional scholars that I've talked to, including our own AG and folks in our department."
Dunleavy said that while the budget is smaller, it fulfills obligations to fund schools, transportation and natural resources.
Shayne Nuesca contributed to this story.
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