Neil Steininger, then-Administrative Services Director for the Office of Management and Budget, explains how the office performs “sweeps” of unspent money in various government accounts during a Senate Finance meeting at the Capitol in July 2019. Gov. Mike Dunleavy Monday named Steininger director of OMB. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

Neil Steininger, then-Administrative Services Director for the Office of Management and Budget, explains how the office performs “sweeps” of unspent money in various government accounts during a Senate Finance meeting at the Capitol in July 2019. Gov. Mike Dunleavy Monday named Steininger director of OMB. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File)

‘He’s not Donna Arduin’: New OMB director comes with in-state experience

Gov. Dunleavy appointed him today.

The Legislature’s new session will be joined by a new Office of Management and Budget director.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Monday named Neil Steininger director of OMB, which will be effective as of Tuesday, the first day of the Legislature’s session.

Steininger is a lifelong Alaskan and has had multiple roles at the office responsible for prepare the annual capital and operating budgets over the past five years, according to the governor’s office. Those include serving as budget analyst, chief budget analyst, and as the Administrative Services Director for the Department of Education and Early Development.

“Governor Dunleavy believes Mr. Steininger’s experience and reputation in finance and state government made him an excellent choice to run the Office of Management and Budget,” said Dunleavy spokesperson Jeff Turner in an email. “As a current OMB employee, he also has the institutional knowledge and relationships with its staff, administration officials and legislators to lead the department through the challenges of creating a sustainable and affordable state budget.”

That experience is a contrast to Donna Arduin, who Dunleavy named OMB director in late 2018.

[Budget director’s history of cutting with ‘hatchet, not a scalpel’ sparks concern]

Arduin, who stepped down in September 2019, did not have experience in Alaska, but she did have a track record of helping to lead budget-cutting efforts in multiple states, which made her a divisive figure almost immediately. In October 2019, Amanda Holland was named interim OMB director, and according to the governor’s office, Holland will continue with OMB to “ensure a smooth transition.”

Sen. Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, was one of several Democratic lawmakers that signed a February 2019 letter questioning Arduin’s connections to private prisons and is critical of the former OMB director.

He said he does not know Steininger especially well but is looking forward to working with him.

“At least he (Steininger) has some familiarity with state government,” Begich said. “He’s not Donna Arduin, which is another plus.”

[State’s budget director Arduin is out]

• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt

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