Dunleavy now promises no cuts to education, but only if he gets a procedural victory
Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who has been unable to justify his plan to cut $320 million from public schools, is losing politically and legally.
Now he is pleading with the Legislature to give him a procedural victory. Give him that and he has promised to abandon his plan to cut education spending.
As a candidate he promised no cuts to school funding. In February, he promised the largest education cuts in state history, meaning big increases in class sizes and widespread layoffs. He offered false statistics to back up his claim.
“We're doing this because the state is out of money and we need to balance our budget," temporary budget director Donna Arduin told legislators on Dunleavy’s behalf.
The new promise is to not cut education spending at all if the Legislature surrenders on a legal question.
“Although we initially proposed reductions in education, we have said to legislative leadership ‘put the funding in, make sure there’s funding in the budget and we will not veto that funding in any form or fashion.’ We will let that funding go through, so we can have that conversation going into next year on what reforms we want to look at in education,” Dunleavy said in a Facebook live interview with his press secretary.
The Legislature funded education for the next fiscal year under a bill approved a year ago, which makes it impossible for Dunleavy to veto it. Rep. Lance Pruitt voted for the bill a year ago. Pruitt, whose wife is in charge of communications for Dunleavy, has reversed his position on forward funding.
While Dunleavy has had his attorney general invent a weak argument that the bill approved a year ago is unconstitutional, the strongest counter-argument is from Dunleavy and his budget office.
In February, the governor proposed repealing the school funding decision made a year ago. He didn’t say the decision was unconstitutional. He said it should be repealed. That’s an admission that the governor believed the decision was constitutional.
The Legislature, with support from both Republicans and Democrats, has rejected the latest promise from Dunleavy, as it should.
“The majority is standing firm on our appropriation authority. We forward-funded last year for this year,” said Senate President Cathy Giessel.
“The governor is subjecting students, parents, and teachers to an unnecessary legal and political fight,” House Speaker Bryce Edgmon said. “We stand with the Senate and remain firm in our belief that the Legislature acted in a legal and appropriate fashion when it forward funded K-12 schools last year.”