Politics

Dunleavy’s new budget boss says he will ‘certainly’ be more apolitical than Donna Arduin

OMB presentation

JUNEAU — Gov. Mike Dunleavy has named Neil Steininger of Juneau as his administration’s top budget official, filling a position that has been vacant since the departure of Donna Arduin last fall.

Steininger has worked for the Office of Management and Budget since the Walker administration and will now become the agency’s director. Steininger said he will “certainly” be more apolitical than Arduin, who became the face of Dunleavy’s service-cutting budget for many Alaskans during his first year in office.

“I see the role of OMB as providing objective technical analysis to inform and help make decisions,” Steininger said, adding that “it remains to be seen” whether he will headline news conferences as Arduin occasionally did.

Steininger’s appointment, effective Tuesday, was announced in a written statement from the governor’s office. His salary was not immediately disclosed.

The Office of Management and Budget is the executive branch’s accounting office, in charge of drafting and tracking budgets statewide. Since Arduin, the agency’s top job has been held by Amanda Holland, a longtime OMB official.

Holland was uninterested in becoming OMB’s permanent director. Arduin’s deputy, Laura Cramer, previously said she was uninterested in the top job, and former state Sen. Anna MacKinnon, long rumored to be under consideration, said this month that the administration had not contacted her. (Her husband, John MacKinnon, is commissioner of the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.)

Cramer said by phone that Steininger is “not a political person at all,” and she expects that in this legislative session, “more than ever,” OMB will attempt to provide objective analysis. Cramer said she has been asked to remain at OMB during the transition to Steininger’s leadership.

The state remains without a permanent commissioner for the Department of Revenue. That position is being held on an acting basis by Mike Barnhill, who has said he is not interested in a permanent appointment.

The Legislature’s top budget position also has been unfilled since the retirement of David Teal, director of the Legislative Finance Division, at the start of the year. The division provides the Legislature with independent budget assessments so lawmakers are not forced to rely upon OMB figures.

Born in Oregon, Steininger moved to Alaska when he was an infant. His family first lived in the Eagle River area, then moved to Juneau, where Steininger attended grade school and graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School. He attended the University of Nevada-Reno, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in economics.

After graduation, he returned to Alaska and has worked for the Permanent Fund Dividend Division, the Alaska Department of Transportation, and in a variety of roles at OMB including budget analyst, chief budget analyst, and most recently as administrative services director (head of budget) for the Department of Education and Early Development.

Correction: The commissioner of the Alaska Department of Transportation is John MacKinnon, not Neil MacKinnon.

James Brooks

James Brooks was a Juneau-based reporter for the ADN from 2018 to May 2022.

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