Anchorage bond rating continues to play big role in city’s budget battle as assembly considers Bronson’s vetoes next week

Published: Dec. 4, 2021 at 8:00 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Anchorage Assembly and Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration continue to clash over next year’s city budget as the two sides disagree over how the municipality’s budget should look.

Bronson believes reigning in spending is the solution for Anchorage’s budget, and pointed to the latest downgraded bond rating to back up his point.

“... Single biggest thing mentioned by both bond rating agencies was our fund imbalance,” Bronson said during an interview at his Winter Open House at City Hall on Friday. “This isn’t a political thing, it’s a mathematical thing. We have to get the spending under control. That’s all we have to do.”

In mid-November, S&P global ratings downgraded the municipality of Anchorage’s bonds rating from a “AAA” rating to a “AA+” rating. Shortly after, Bronson announced several vetoes to the city’s 2022 budget. The vetoes targeted amendments the assembly had made to Bronson’s proposed budget prior to passing it on Nov. 23, many of which added back in funding that had been removed.

In making the vetoes, Bronson claimed the city does not have the revenue to support them and that his administration could not verify the funding sources used by assembly members to justify their changes.

“We are very concerned by the mayor’s representation of the Municipality’s bond ratings, which are actually a testament to Anchorage’s financial resiliency,” wrote Quinn-Davidson in a press release in response to the vetoes. “Despite weathering a massive earthquake and a once-in-a-century pandemic, both agencies have put the Municipality at the AA+ level, which is the second-highest rating available and is classified as ‘very strong’ by Standard & Poor.”

Assembly members Quinn-Davidson and Forrest Dunbar are co-chairs of the Budget Finance Committee, and pushed back about the mayor’s claims regarding the city’s bond rating, and about the assembly’s budget amendments, in a statement earlier this week.

“The Assembly’s modest budget amendments affect about half of one percent of the $550 million dollar budget submitted by the Mayor and yet maintain critical investments in public safety that our community expects,” Dunbar said. “At the same time that he rejected these public safety investments and made claims about overspending, Mayor Bronson preserved every single new middle-management and political appointee position he had created.”

The Coalition of Municipal Unions, representing workers in the Municipality of Anchorage, said in a press release it was disappointed in Bronson’s vetoes and requested that the assembly override them.

“I think what’s really important is to focus the attention on the fact that these services that were being cut, the city of Anchorage can’t afford to have these services cut,” Coalition of Municipal Unions President Jeremy Conkling said. “It will degrade the overall lifestyle and government efficiency here in Anchorage, and that’s why it’s so important that the assembly (override) those (vetoes).”

Various vetoes from Bronson would affect the individual unions that make up the coalition differently, Conkling said.

“You know, I can say personally as the president of (Anchorage Police Department Employees Association), I was most concerned with the veto of the SRO budget because that’s what’s going to affect my membership,” he said. “You know, the stance of the APDEA is that it is the municipality’s job, one of the core functions of government is to provide for public safety, and that’s not something that we should place on the school district to fund.”

A legislative liaison said the assembly is expected to meet for a special meeting next week to consider overrides to the mayor’s vetoes, though the exact date has not been set. The mayor has the power to veto measures passed by the legislative branch, the assembly. In order to override a mayoral veto, the assembly needs a supermajority of eight votes.

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