A citizen initiative to put a spending cap in the Anchorage city charter violates the Alaska Constitution and should not be placed on the April city ballot, an Anchorage Superior Court judge has ruled.
Superior Court Judge Erin Marston issued the decision Thursday afternoon, hours after hearing oral arguments in a lawsuit filed earlier this month.
The lawsuit, filed by Anchorage residents Jeffrey Schmitz, Guadalupe Marroquin and Matthew Fraize, contended that the initiative — in which backers sought to put a spending cap in the city charter and make it more rigid than the spending cap that already exists in city code — would interfere with the Anchorage Assembly's discretion to make appropriations.
City attorney Bill Falsey defended the petitioners, arguing in court that the initiative did not directly involve making or repealing an appropriation. He had already told the city clerk's office that the petition was legal and advised that signature gathering to put the measure on the April ballot could take place.
But Marston sided with the plaintiffs in questions about constitutionality. He wrote in his decision that the initiative would be "usurping discretion and control over municipal finances which were intended to rest with the Assembly alone."
The judge ordered city clerk Barbara Jones and deputy city clerk Amanda Moser to withdraw the petition's approval and not review petition signatures. Falsey told Marston Thursday morning that the sponsors of the petition had expected to submit signatures next week.
Marston also ordered the clerks not to place the initiative on the 2017 ballot.
The city can appeal the decision to the Alaska Supreme Court.