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Alaska Supreme Court affirms that it was valid to drain state’s college scholarship fund

Alaska Supreme Court affirms that it was valid to drain state’s college scholarship fund
Published: May. 3, 2022 at 7:18 PM AKDT
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JUNEAU, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Supreme Court has ruled that it was valid for Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration to drain the state’s college scholarship fund after the Alaska Legislature failed to pass an annual procedural vote last year.

The court heard oral arguments on Tuesday afternoon and released a short order on the same day, saying simply that all five justices had affirmed a decision made by an Anchorage Superior Court judge in February. A longer decision, explaining the justices’ reasoning, will be issued at a later date.

The $400 million Higher Education Investment Fund has been used to pay scholarships to over 5,000 Alaska college students each year. But, an annual three-quarter vote failed to pass through the Legislature last year, which was needed to keep it full.

Four Alaska college students sued the Dunleavy administration in February, arguing that the state’s college scholarship fund should not have been on the list of funds to be drained due to that failed vote. Legislators have been debating bills to restore the fund.

The Alaska House of Representatives passed House Bill 229 last month that would protect the fund from future failed legislative votes. It has not been heard in the Senate Education Committee since then. The House also passed House Bill 322 on Monday that would do the same thing, and protect a fund used to replace Alaska Marine Highway System vessels.

The House set aside $359 million as part of its operating budget to recapitalize the fund. The Senate has yet to pass a budget. The legislative session must end by midnight on May 18.

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