The risks of further cuts to the budget
We’re all probably familiar with what a budget is–whether you have it on a post-it, your fridge, or a spreadsheet, a budget is a plan to spend limited resources. For the state government, it’s their one main constitutional requirement: our state legislature must pass a budget for the next year, every single year during “session” (when the legislature meets, in Juneau).
Alaska’s state checkbook is getting tighter and tighter. With no broad-based taxation since the 1980’s, our state coffers are drying up–yet our state still has essential services we must provide, like funding for schools and teachers, essential physical infrastructure like airports, and public media to keep folks informed.
This year, the legislature passed a budget that included a one-time increase to public education funding (“one time” means the increase would be true for this budget, but not necessarily for future years). This funding increase to education is beyond necessary–many, many teachers, students, parents, school board members, and legislators fought hard for this increase, which barely kept up with the cost of inflation as is. If you’re in Anchorage, you know the devastating impact of multiple proposed school closures–and just how essential public education is to building the next generation up.
But, after the budget passed, Governor Dunleavy quietly vetoed half of this very necessary education increase and now educators are facing pink slips and schools are facing shortages. The Governor also slashed or cut entirely multiple other programs–such as slashing one million dollars of rural public radio funding; slashing a research project into bycatch; and cutting funding for the Head Start program as it is most struggling. The result of these cuts will be more teachers leaving, fewer students able to find a spot in public Pre-K, among many others–ultimately, this means worse outcomes for our kids.
Cuts like this can leave Alaskans dejected. There are only a few options now: overturn the vetoes, fight for education and other crucial funding next year, and hold our leaders accountable. I suggest we push for all three.
Overturning vetoes is incredibly hard in Alaska: you need a two thirds vote of the legislature to call itself into special session (it’s a “special” session when they meet outside of their regularly scheduled session), and a three quarters vote of all the members to overturn the vetoes. Given the high bar, this is unlikely to happen.
But the next two steps can always happen: fighting for what we want to see in our budget and holding our leaders accountable for their votes. Write to your legislator and ask where they stand on overturning the vetoes–this is not an issue our public officials get to be silent on. (If you need help finding your legislators, just go to the bottom of akleg.gov, type in your address, and you’ll get your state legislators’ names and contact information).
Jenny-Marie Stryker is an Anchorage community member, a dog mom and the Political Director for The Alaska Center