Alaska borough to split from Municipal League over its opposition to governor’s budget

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks to reporters on Tuesday, May 28, 2019, in Juneau, Alaska. The Matanuska-Susitna Borough is planning to leave the Alaska Municipal League, which represents 165 communities around the state, due to its opposition to Dunleavy’s proposed budget cuts. (Becky Bohrer/AP Photo)
The Matanuska-Susitna Borough is planning to leave the Alaska Municipal League at the end of June. That’s after Assembly members voted to zero-out funding for membership in the organization earlier this month.

The Alaska Municipal League represents 165 communities around the state and advocates for local governments’ collective interests in state and federal decision-making. But some in the Mat-Su, including a slim majority of Mat-Su Borough Assembly members, think those collective interests and some of the league’s positions do not line up with those of the borough, at least not enough for the borough to pay for league membership.

At its June 4 meeting, the Assembly voted 4-3 to approve a budget amendment sponsored by District 6 Assembly member Jesse Sumner that eliminates the borough’s $41,000 in annual dues to the Alaska Municipal League.

Sumner said the municipal league’s opposition to Governor Mike Dunleavy’s proposed deep cuts to state spending is not in line with his constituents’ wishes.

“It seems pretty simple that if the state goes forward with continuing to spend the way they are and not cutting their budget, they’ll have to have a tax at some point, it’ll come out of the Mat-Su, and it won’t be spent back here the same rate it comes out, because it never is,” Sumner said.

The borough’s manager said it will continue to have its own lobbyist.

League disappointed

Alaska Municipal League Executive Director Nils Andreassen said he was disappointed by the Assembly’s decision.

“And I’ve been thinking of it in terms of our articles of incorporation, that, at a very, very basic level says, ‘Support good things for local governments and oppose bad things,’” Andreassen said. “That’s how we’ve approached this session, and I think that nothing we’ve done has harmed the members’ interests. And it’s entirely up to them how they respond to state or federal legislative actions.”

Andreassen said he plans to continue talking with members of the Assembly about municipal league membership and working to improve state policies for the Mat-Su Borough, including on public safety issues.

A spokesperson for the borough said the Assembly could still reinstate funding for the membership dues.

Sumner, the Assembly member, said he will oppose reinstating the Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s membership in the Alaska Municipal League unless the league makes drastic changes to resolutions it’s passed, something he sees as very unlikely.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canada’s territorial premiers discuss priorities for a ‘united North’, CBC News

Finland: Finland’s new gov breezes through no-confidence vote over its agenda, Yle News

Sweden: Swedish government unveils proposed spring budget, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska governor calls second special session to fund permanent fund dividends, Alaska Public Media

Casey Grove, Alaska Public Media

For more news from Alaska visit Alaska Public Media.

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