After 22 years in the Legislative Finance Division, director David Teal is stepping down.
“Well, because I’m old,” Teal told the Empire in an interview Wednesday. “I really do enjoy the work. I could have retired at 55. I stayed 14 years longer than I needed to.”
Teal plans to leave at the end of December and said the state is still crafting its recruitment proposal to fill his position. The state budget is generally released in December and Teal said he wanted to stay long enough to help with the transition.
The Legislative Finance Division is meant to provide analysis and information for the Alaska Legislature as lawmakers work through the appropriations process. Sometimes that analysis can come into conflict with the policy decisions of people in power.
During this year’s budget battle, Teal gave presentations to legislators where his department’s analysis conflicted with those of the governor or the Office of Management and Budget.
In April, Teal gave the Senate Finance Committee a presentation where he said the House of Representative’s plan to cut $250 million achieved the governor’s budget goals better than the governor’s own plan to cut $1.6 billion.
“There are no deficits and the core functions are funded at a higher level under the House plan,” Teal said at the time.
Later in the summer Teal was called on to explain “the sweep” — what was until then an esoteric accounting maneuver done at the last minute of the Fiscal Year. On June 30, the end of the fiscal year, the sweep takes monies from the various savings accounts and automatically moves them into the Constitutional Budget Reserve.
Under normal circumstances, the Legislature simply votes to undo this process. But in the summer’s contentious special session it was not clear if the two-thirds vote necessary to reverse the sweep would be obtained.
To add to the complications, OMB under then-Director Donna Arduin, had vastly expanded the number of accounts considered “sweepable,” including the Alaska Performance Scholarship fund, which provided money for Alaska students to attend university in state. The sweep was eventually reversed after a marathon legislative session that went to the end of July.
Teal told lawmakers at the time he believed that OMB’s interpretation of sweepable funds was in conflict with the state constitution.
Still, Teal doesn’t see himself as a critic of the governor or anyone else, and says he isn’t frustrated with the process.
“We just do analysis,” Teal said. “We don’t have a political agenda. It’s more of matter of ‘budgetarily, why would you want to do that?’”
More recently, Teal spoke before lawmakers in Anchorage on options for providing funding to the University of Alaska. In August, Gov. Mike Dunleavy signed a compact with the regents that would cut $70 million over three years rather than the $135 million the governor originally proposed.
He said he has a great deal of respect for the Legislature as an institution and gave high praise to his finance division colleagues, saying they would be able to provide lawmakers with quality information.
Teal said he’ll be turning 70 soon, and while he actually hates to leave, his wife insisted that he does while he still has time to enjoy his retirement.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or email@example.com.