JUNEAU, Alaska – Members of the Alaska State Employees Association (ASEA)/AFSCME Local 52 are fighting a budget proposal by the newly elected governor that would eliminate and privatize state programs on an unprecedented scale.
Much of ASEA’s Political Education Leadership (PEL) Conference in February was overshadowed by the budget proposal. ASEA members were briefed on how the proposed budget would make massive cuts to core services.
More than 40 ASEA members from across the state gathered in Juneau for the PEL conference and walked the halls of the state Capitol to speak with lawmakers about the future of state services.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget proposal has most Alaskans reeling as it unfairly targets programs serving vulnerable citizens – the sick, the elderly, residents of rural and coastal communities, and all of Alaska’s children.
It would slash funding by hundreds of millions of dollars for K-12 and higher education, increase costs up to 140 percent for senior citizens living in the Alaska Pioneer Homes (24-hour care facilities for the elderly), and sell a state museum along with its collection of historical and cultural artifacts. It is also expected to lead to at least 7,000 job losses.
The state ferry system, an essential form of transportation for many coastal residents and a transportation backbone in Interior Alaska, would cease operation after September under the plan to cut funding by 75 percent. In other words, the governor’s budget would leave Alaskans stranded – literally.
AFSCME members learned from legislators that the loss of essential services, state jobs and beloved Alaska institutions is neither inevitable nor necessary. The decision between state services and a balanced budget is a false choice that distracts from the Dunleavy administration’s effort to outsource, cost-shift and sell off state assets and responsibilities.
After presentations and discussions at the PEL Conference, AFSCME members resolved to support an anticipated alternate budget drawn up by the Alaska State Legislature to meet the true needs of the state.
Alaska enjoys a fiscal situation that is the envy of other states. Dunleavy has introduced a disaster budget and manufactured a fiscal crisis to justify it. It threatens Alaska just as the state emerges from a five-year recession.
AFSCME members held a rally on Feb. 27 the Capitol steps. They held signs and a banner reading “Save our State.”
"Governor Dunleavy’s budget is anti-worker and anti-Alaskan,” said Mike Laiti, an ASEA member working in the state Department of Health and Social Services. “From education to health care to transportation, this budget is a disaster for Alaska.”