Gov. Dunleavy postpones budget signing, signals support for two more vetoed programs

Gov. Mike Dunleavy responds to questions at a press conference in January 2019. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy delayed signing the operating budget last week. As of Friday, his signature was expected Monday accompanying a number of line-item vetoes for programs whose funding has since been restored by the legislature.

On Friday, the governor’s office said two programs Dunleavy previously eliminated funding for now had his support. They are: Online With Libraries (OWL) and Live Homework Help, which offers free remote tutoring for students.

“Like funds restored earlier in the week for Head Start, Early Childhood Grants and other early learning programs, these decision were made after significant input from Alaskans,” Gov. Dunleavy said in a statement Friday“While we hoped to have these issues cleared up months ago, it’s important we announce these items now before the start of the school year.”

The $809,100 in funding is crucial for digitally connecting Alaska, librarians say.

“Because one of the major things that the program does is enable rural libraries to provide broadband internet connectivity to their communities,” said Robert Barr, president of the Alaska Library Association. “So that’s probably the thing that I’m most excited about.”

The OWL program shut down July 1 following the governor’s vetoes. But a note on the state website Friday indicated that funding has been restored and would be back up soon.

That’ll make a difference in smaller, isolated communities.

In Tenakee Springs — a Southeast coastal community with a year-round population of roughly 150 people — the OWL program helps keep the city government connected for conducting official business with the outside world.

“Our board members often leave at different times throughout the winter,” librarian Dordie Carter said Friday. “And so we are connecting via the video teleconference for our board meetings, and other government entities have used it for meeting with different government officials in their offices.”

The Live Homework Help program is a free service available to students of any age.

“Any K-through-college student in Alaska can connect to a real-life tutor between the hours of noon and midnight to receive tutoring in any subject as long as they have an internet connection,” Barr said. “So the two programs are kind of paired, right? You need the broadband internet connection to make use of Live Homework Help.”

Earlier this week the governor also said he’ll support the legislature’s funding for a number of childhood, educational and senior programs he’d previously vetoed.

Many of the programs vetoed by Gov. Dunleavy had been popular. His critics have used deep cuts to help galvanize a recall effort.

On Thursday, the Recall Dunleavy group said it had gathered the more than 28,000 signatures needed to begin the formal recall process.