Governor Mike Dunleavy, during a press conference on March 21, expanded on his Fiscal Year 2024 budget, which is currently working its way through the Alaska Legislature. The budget plan, as submitted to the legislature, totals $4.8 billion in Unrestricted General Funds.
The capital budget is down $460 million dollars from Fiscal Year 2023.
Due to lower-than-expected oil prices, Dunleavy’s budget plan calls for a draw from the Constitutional Budget Reserve of $245 million, and $20 million from the Statutory Budget Reserve.
The combined balance for the SBR and CBR accounts is $2.1 billion dollars.
Dunleavy commented on budgetary items connected to Western Alaska. He focused heavily on educational funding that is looking to bring teachers to Alaska — to stay.
“We’ve put down a request for approximately $58 million to do a teacher recruitment incentive approach to keeping teachers, for recruiting them and keeping them,” Dunleavy said. “We do that for three years so we can do a study to see if that has an actual impact. Many of our western and northern coastal communities and school districts as well as interior school districts or remote school districts, they suffer from the highest amount of turnover and difficulty retaining.”
Dunleavy began his professional life in Alaska as a teacher in Koyuk. He spoke to a problem plaguing the state’s attempt to retain teachers. His plan, which came after extensive research, could change recruitment efforts.
“Back in the early 1980s, there were about 700 openings back then, and Alaska has always been plagued somewhat by turnover, recruitment and retention,” Dunleavy said. “We believe that this could be a game-changer. We’re having a teacher recruitment retention issue across the country, not just here in the state of Alaska. So, this proposal came as a result of research, discussions with others across the country, and my own personal experience in rural Alaska and urban Alaska.”
In addition to education, the elimination of tuberculosis and public safety are of key importance to the Bering Strait region, the governor said.
“There’s a number of things we’re doing,” Dunleavy said. “Rural Alaska figures prominently in our all of our discussions and all of our approaches for Alaska as a whole.”
The governor’s FY24 budget had called for a full statutory Permanent Fund Dividend payment in 2023 to every eligible Alaskan of approximately $3,800. However, the House Finance Committee’s substitute for Dunleavy’s budget would call for the payout to be reduced from a full statutory dividend to a 50/50 dividend, taking it from approximately $3,800 down to approximately $2,700.
“I believe that we should do everything we can to keep as much money in the hands of the people,” Dunleavy said. “Many others believe that we’ve got to take a look at the PFD in order to help balance the budget. So, those discussions will ensue.”
The Alaska Senate has not yet weighed in on this year’s PFD payment.
The budget also calls for a $25 million state match on a leveraged $222 million in federal funding for village safe water and wastewater infrastructure projects. A $4.5 million line item for Food Security Programs, specifically addressing Arctic Fisheries and Central Region Fisheries Management Sonar Replacement, is also included in the governor’s ask from the legislature.
Image at top: Governor Mike Dunleavy speaking at the Capitol in Juneau, Alaska (2019). Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO, used with permission.