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Alaskans Brace for ‘Draconian’ Budget Cuts

Photos by: ASEA
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Alaskans Brace for ‘Draconian’ Budget Cuts

Members of the Alaska State Employees Association (ASEA)/AFSCME Local 52 are preparing for action after Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced line item vetoes to the Fiscal Year 2020 state operating budget late last week. 

Totaling more than $400 million, these budget cuts will hurt many departments and harm the vital public services – in some cases eliminating entire programs – that hundreds of thousands of Alaskans rely upon.

For example, according to an ASEA email to members, the University of Alaska system will see a staggering $135 million cut to its budget, while the Nome Youth Facility and several Division of Agriculture programs will have their funding zeroed out, affecting more than 30 employees. Conservative estimates are that 1,500 jobs will be lost all told between the University of Alaska, the Alaska Court System and various state departments.

“Fortunately, Governor Dunleavy’s vetoes did not approach the $1.6 billion in cuts that were threatened in his February amended FY 2020 state operating budget proposal, and I give ASEA members credit for tempering his decision to slash state services,” said Jake Metcalfe, executive director of ASEA.

“ASEA has been actively protecting the interests of our member and fighting against the governor’s line item vetoes,” Metcalfe added. “Employees represented by ASEA received a 3% cost of living adjustment beginning July 1. And the state agreed to increase its contribution toward health insurance for workers and end mandatory furloughs. We will continue that fight by urging legislators to overturn the governor’s proposal.”

AFSCME President Lee Saunders called the budget cuts “draconian” and “heartless,” adding that they inflict “needless hardship on the working people of Alaska.”

“The governor’s cuts include $50 million from Medicaid, the elimination of the state’s senior benefits program, and a 41% reduction in higher education funding, to name but a few,” Saunders noted.

 “Taking the fair and affordable budget passed by the state legislature, the governor did the bidding of anti-worker big business and billionaire CEOs,” Saunders said. “In his statement, he said, ‘We can’t continue to be all things for all people.’ Indeed, Dunleavy showed he is not the governor for any working families – upon whose backs these cuts will be paid.”