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Alaska has received $1.25 billion in federal aid under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Governor Mike Dunleavy (R – Alaska) is using a process called Revised Program Legislative (RPL)to allocated how the money will be spent. This process provides for a constitutional method to accept additional funds for items already approved in the budget from non-state sources that becomes available after the session ends. Technically the legislature is still in session. However, they voted to suspend uniform rules and go into extended recess due to COVID-19. Normally they must meet at least every three days during session.
Dunleavy is stepping into uncharted territory because the legislature is in an extended recess. He is essentially using his executive authority to bypass legislative appropriation by using the RPL process to get the money out. The legislature does not like this and are scrambling to find an alternative. But to do that they would need to pass an appropriation bill. Even if they were in session it would likely take weeks to figure out how to appropriate a $1.25 billion federal windfall. Dunleavy has scheduled the first distribution for May 1. Sources inform me the legislature is not planning on reconvening until May 4.
The House Finance Committee met last week and today to discuss this matter. The legislature’s attorney Megan Wallace has questioned whether or not Dunleavy can do this. Senate President Cathy Giessel (R – Anchorage) and Senator Natasha von Imhof (R – Anchorage)sent a bizarre letterto Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asking for clarification for how the money can be allocated.