Superior court holds appropriations of future revenue are constitutional
November 7, 2019
(Anchorage, AK) – The superior court today issued an order upholding the prior appropriation of future revenues for fiscal year 2020 education funding. The superior court held that future revenues can be appropriated for future years, despite the annual budgeting framework set up by the Alaska Constitution.
"This decision upends the appropriations process as we know it and could lead to one legislature and governor setting the budget five, six or more years in advance,” said Attorney General Kevin G. Clarkson. “Although the education funding at issue here was only for one year in advance, following the superior court’s logic, there is really no time limit to speak of on the legislature’s decision to future appropriate, aside from political will. By the superior court’s decision, budgeting five years, six years, even 10 years out is fair game. We fundamentally do not believe that is what our constitutional framers envisioned when they discussed an annual budgeting process. This issue is too important not to appeal and get final guidance from the Alaska Supreme Court, so we all know going forward what the rules are."
In 2018, the legislature passed an appropriation that sought to commit future revenues, not revenues on hand in the state treasury in fiscal year 2019, to pay for education in the future fiscal year 2020. This was not a case where projected revenues for the forthcoming fiscal year were appropriated to a future purpose. Instead, the appropriation did not take effect until the future fiscal year.
Attorney General Clarkson issued a formal Attorney General Opinion on May 8, 2019 concluding that the appropriation was unconstitutional and a new appropriation was needed. The legislature disagreed and decided not to pass a new appropriation, which left education, in the opinion of the Attorney General, without any constitutional source of funding. The legislature ultimately sued the Governor in order to resolve the dispute. Consistent with the Governor’s desire that education be funded despite the lawsuit, education funding has gone out to districts on a monthly basis under a court-approved stipulation entered into by the parties.
The current stipulation remains in effect until a final judgment is entered. The Attorney General has made assurances that he will work with the legislature’s counsel to enter into another stipulation to ensure the funding of education continues until the appeal is completed.
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Department Media Contact: Assistant Attorney General Maria Bahr at (907) 269-5285 or firstname.lastname@example.org.