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Veto override failure sets up new battle for education spending

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(The Center Square) – The Alaska Legislature was one vote shy of overriding Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s veto of Senate Bill 140, setting up a new battle for education spending.

A majority of lawmakers in both chambers agreed to set aside the veto, but it was not enough to get the 40 votes needed. The House voted 23 to 16, and the Senate tally was 16 to 4, making the final total 39 to 20. The 20 “no” votes came from Republicans.

SB 140 would have increased the base student allocation, but teacher bonuses supported by Dunleavy were not included. The governor said in his veto message the bill contained no “real reforms,” including making charter schools more available to families.

“I want to thank the legislature for their hard work and commitment to implementing new education reforms that put Alaska families first,” Dunleavy said in a social media post after the vote. “Let it be clear to school boards and associations: education funding will be prioritized and available – I support solutions that move us forward.”

The Alaska Democratic Party said the vote would hurt children.

“Legislators who supported our Governor’s efforts should be ashamed, and the Alaskan people should know well that his veto was him telling us that he does not care about our children, our families, our educators, or the future of our state,” the Democratic Party said in a statement posted on social media. “What Gov. Dunleavy and those who stood in defense of his veto did today was tell Alaskans resoundingly that they do not care about the future of our children and the future of our state. They let party politics and lack of care win out over common sense funding increases.”

Americans for Prosperity-Alaska said the vote gives lawmakers another chance at improving education.

“SB 140 missed the mark at a time when Alaskans are eager for more choices in their student’s education and better results. Education funding should be used to support students – not systems,” said AFP-AK State Director Bethany Marcum. “While AFP is disappointed that some lawmakers were supportive of SB 140’s attempt to hike generalized funding to school districts, our team looks forward to working alongside the legislature and Governor Dunleavy on real reforms that will empower families to find a system that works for each unique student.”

A new bill is already in the hopper for lawmakers to consider, Rep. Tom McKay, R-Anchorage, said during Monday’s veto debate.

House Bill 392 includes the $680 increase in BSA funding and money for transportation and internet services for school districts. The bill also adds a position to the Department of Education to support charter schools. The bill is assigned to the House Education Committee.

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