Sen. Tom Begich wife suing governor over education spending

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Sen. Tom Begich wife suing governor over education spending

was written by Suzanne Downing , 2019-05-02 03:54:42

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The wife of an Alaska State senator who sits on the Senate Education Committee has filed a lawsuit against the governor and the commissioner of the Department of Education. It’s over money for education, and it’s supportive of her husband.

The lawsuit is pure political theater, and while every news organization in the state wrote about it, none would acknowledge that Sarah Sledge, married to Tom Begich, is the executive director of the litigant, the Coalition for Education Equity.

[Read the complaint: Sarah Sledge Coalition for Education Equity]

[Editor’s note: KTVA’s story late Wednesday mentioned the conflict of interest]

Although Begich is on the Education Committee, he is a member of the Democrat minority in the Senate. Thus, a lawsuit from his wife is not only good theater, it is a power-move for a wife supporting her husband’s political position and ambition.

Of course, Begich used to be a part of this litigious group, according to this flyer from 2015:

Begich was still listed as the government relations director for CEAAC on the organization’s website in September, 2016.

In Anchorage Superior Court today, Sledge’s lawsuit demanded that a $20 million extra appropriation to schools made by last year’s legislature and governor be released by the current governor — immediately.

Gov. Michael Dunleavy has proposed to the Legislature that the appropriation made last year to add an extra $20 million to schools this year be clawed back. It’s unlikely to go anywhere in the House and Senate, but even the Legislature’s own budget director David Teal says the money doesn’t have to be released until June 30.

The Governor’s Office won’t comment on pending lawsuits, but the Sledge-Begich caper is apparently a case of premature litigation, because in fact the funds could be released at any time, since it seems apparent that neither the House nor Senate want to go along with the governor’s plan.

Indeed, the governor has already indicated that if the House and Senate don’t agree, he’ll release the funds, but that didn’t factor into the mainstream narrative.

Dunleavy also wants to eliminate another $30 million that was added as extra funds for the coming fiscal year. In that instance, he has a constitutional case to be made since the funds were committed by the previous legislature, but were not exactly appropriated. It’s the same constitutional problem he has with the Legislature’s “forward funding” of education when there were no actual funds to appropriate.

[Read: The Donnybrook ahead: Education ‘forward-funding]

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