Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy today (Friday 6-28-19) announced 168 line-item vetoes to the state operating budget next year. At the top of the list: Public Broadcasting.
During a press conference Friday morning, Dunleavy explained his position on the veto of just over $2 million for public radio, and $600,000 for public television.
“We believe that with the number of stations, both radio and television — and just given our fiscal situation, it’s really the fiscal situation that’s driving the need to reduce the budget — we believe that people will still be able to access programs through other means,” Dunleavy said. “We still keep intact the emergency broadcasting aspect of public media. It’s not easy but this is going to be part of the overall reduction.”
Exactly how the emergency broadcasting infrastructure and satellite system will be operated is unclear, as Dunleavy also vetoed the $46,000 appropriation for Alaska’s Public Broadcasting Commission.
Alaska’s 26 public radio stations have long been aware that a veto was possible. KCAW general manager Becky Meiers says that the board of the Raven Radio Foundation has planned contingency budget that will keep the station in operation.
“We’ll be doing a lot of work around fundraising, probably increasing the number of times we come to the community. We’ve also made some cuts, primarily to travel — and to some staffing — but one of our biggest priorities is to maintain the level of service that we’ve been providing to our communities, to the fullest extent possible.”
Meiers says that she’s relieved that the governor left the public radio satellite infrastructure untouched, otherwise KCAW would have had to come up with an alternative method for broadcasting to the seven other communities it serves outside of Sitka.
The veto means that KCAW will lose $76,000 in direct funding from the Alaska Public Broadcasting Commission, plus federal matching funds of about $14,000 from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In all, about 18-percent of the station’s budget disappeared with the stroke of a pen.
Meiers says the station already is very financially efficient, and gets by “on very little.” She believes surviving the veto means that Raven Radio must forge an even deeper connection with listeners and volunteers
“Whatever we end up doing to raise more funds for this coming year, those are things that we’ll have to operationalize over time and forever more,” said Meiers. “It’s going to mean a lot more engagement with the community in order to make Raven Radio happen at the level that it currently does.”
Other programs of interest vetoed by Gov. Dunleavy on Friday: The Ocean Ranger program, which monitors cruise ship wastewater pollution; the senior benefits program, which pays qualifying seniors up to $200 a month in cash support; the Civil Air Patrol, which supports search and rescue operations; and over $130 million for University of Alaska campuses.
Note: As mentioned, the veto list is 168 items long. In the coming days, KCAW News will examine additional vetoes likely to affect Sitka and other Southeast communities.
Overriding any one of these vetoes would require the support of at least 45 of Alaska’s 60 representatives and senators.