BY KENDRA KLOSTER
There is a saying – don’t tell me what you value, show me what you spend your money on, and I will tell you what you value. The proposed FY2020 budget from Governor Dunleavy tells Alaskans what this administration values, and education, public safety, elder care, public broadcasting and rural Alaska do not seem to be among what is valued. Governor Dunleavy’s budget cuts University funding by almost half, removes funding for all pre-k programs, decreases public education funding for every school district in the state, repeals the Senior Benefits Program, cuts the ferry system by 75% leaving some communities without transportation, eliminates the Power Cost Equalization (PCE) program which helps rural Alaskans afford their already high cost heating bills, cuts millions from state troopers and village public safety officers, completely eliminates public broadcasting, zeros out tribal assistance programs, cuts public assistance programs and reduces Medicaid funding.
We must also consider the ramifications of these cuts to our jobs. An analysis by the Institution of Social and Economic Research (ISER) at the University of Alaska Anchorage finds that the governor’s proposed budget cut of about $1.6 billion could result in massive job losses throughout the state of Alaska.
“It is best to think about the cuts costing the state economy a little more than 1,000 jobs for every $100 million dollars cut from the budget,” Dr. Mouhcine Guettabi, an economics professor at ISER, wrote in an email. “These losses do not account for the uncertainty that will essentially freeze economic activity over the next few months. Also, I have not explicitly accounted for the losses in federal funding, out-migration response and the potential housing market effects.”
Furthermore, as we look at the proposed cuts from the state, we need to remember that these deficits will need to be made up from elsewhere – most likely directly from our communities. The burden will fall to each of us as municipalities and boroughs increase property taxes to make up for the lack of adequate state funding for our schools, roads and other core services.
As we look at this budget and the cuts that are being proposed, we need to ask ourselves - What kind of Alaska do we want to live in? What kind of Alaska do we want to leave for our children and grandchildren? It is our duty and responsibility to our families and future generations to stand up and make our voices heard. We need to remind the Governor and the Legislature that this budget is unacceptable. Each of us need to call our legislators, write letters and call in during public testimony on the budget to share what is important to us.
We understand the fiscal situation of our state, but it is our responsibility to offer suggestions on reasonable cuts and efficiencies while still funding core services. Every Alaskan, both urban and rural, deserves to feel safe in their home, receive a quality education, and have access to quality healthcare and transportation. We need a budget that will reflect our values and protect Alaskans and our future. Right now, this is not that budget.