Health commissioner Crum declined to answer a simple, but crucial budget question

The question to Adam Crum, the commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services, was one that any commissioner of any department in Alaska should have been able to answer immediately.

It took place Saturday during a confirmation hearing at which members of the health committee in the House asked Crum about whether the department would refuse to spend funds appropriated by the Legislature.

The House has refused to go along with some of the Dunleavy budget cuts, planning to appropriate more funds than the governor desires.

There is a possibility that temporary budget director Donna Arduin believes the governor has the discretion to refuse to spend funds appropriated by the Legislature, which would mean a loss of federal matching funds in parts of the health budget, to use one example.

Anchorage Rep. Matt Claman asked Crum if he intends to refuse to spend money that the Legislature believes should be spent. Crum didn’t give a direct reply.

“Do you intend to spend less money than the Legislature appropriates?” Rep. Ivy Spohnholz asked.

Crum said he didn’t know how to respond.

“I apologize, that’s a new question actually, I’ve never really thought about that,” Crum said. “We follow the legislative intent as we’ll go through this process. I haven’t had any time to ponder that subsect of it.”

I think this means the department plans to spend less than the Legislature appropriates. And Crum may not have pondered it, but temporary budget director Donna Arduin has certainly pondered this possibility.

“I may be putting words in her mouth but my impression is that any opportunity she would have to spend less than the Legislature indicates we should spend that she would like you to do that. And I guess my query is are you going to take your orders from Ms. Arduin or are you going to be more focused on what the Legislature sends on,” said Claman.

“I would like to know your answer,” he said.

“I have not been a part of those discussions and I take my marching orders from the governor as well as statutory guidance provided by the Legislature,” he said.

But will he spend less than the Legislature appropriates? He refused to answer that simple question.

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