Supreme Court of Alaska (2022)
In State v. Alaska Legislative Council, 515 P.3d 117 (Alaska 2022), the supreme court held that the Alaska state legislature could not appropriate future education funds from a future fiscal year’s budget. (Id. at 119). In 2018, the legislature passed and the governor signed a law appropriating education funds for both the 2019 fiscal year and the 2020 fiscal year. (Id. at 120). But the 2020 spending bill became effective in 2019, and a new governor took office in December 2018. (Id. at 119). The new governor refused to spend the funds due to his belief that the appropriation was unconstitutional. (Id.). The legislature’s representative sued to force the governor to spend the money, and the legislature won summary judgment and attorneys’ fees in superior court. (Id. at 122–23). When the governor appealed, the legislature’s representative argued to the supreme court that the constitution’s strict text did not limit the timing of legislative spending, and that the legislature’s constitutional duty to establish schools provided flexibility in education spending. (Id. at 123–24, 128). The supreme court reversed the superior court’s decision, reasoning that the constitution’s budgetary clauses require the governor to submit a budget annually. (Id. at 126–27). The supreme court perceived this as an implicit requirement that the legislature also determine budgets annually, because the framers envisioned the legislature and governor working together to establish a budget. (Id. at 126). The supreme court cited precedent to support its conclusion that the legislature’s constitutional duty to fund public schools did not alter standard spending rules. (Id. at 127–28). As a result, the supreme court reversed the superior court’s decision to grant summary judgment and vacated the award of attorneys’ fees, holding that the legislature could not appropriate future education funds from a future fiscal year’s budget. (Id. at 119–20).