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Lawmakers’ Refusal to Compromise Puts Alaskans at Risk

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — If the Alaska State Legislature fails to produce a budget by July 1, the state will shut down, leaving tens of thousands of residents without the services they need and 19,000 state workers without jobs.

Members of ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 have a simple message for legislators: Do your job, so we can do ours. To punctuate their point, AFSCME members recently delivered symbolic pink slips to Alaska lawmakers.

Every day, Alaska state employees report to work because they know their neighbors are counting on them. They care for the elderly, maintain the state’s natural resources, help residents find jobs and do so much more for their communities.

"We perform jobs that are necessary to keep the state functioning," said Kirsa Hughes-Skandijs, a Department of Labor employee who analyzes data that’s ultimately used to create safer workplaces. “This would not only be an economic hit to our communities, there would be an immediate loss of services."

Hughes-Skandijs was part of a delegation of AFSCME members who delivered a petition in the form of a pink slip to Senate President Pete Kelly on June 13. More than 1,600 state employees and residents signed the petition in less than two weeks.

(From left to right) Jim Duncan, Don Hale, Vince Beltrami, Andrew Washburn, Kirsa Hughes-Skandijs and Nadine Lefebvre were among the AFSCME members who delivered a “pink slip” petition to the Alaska Senate to persuade state lawmakers to avoid a government shutdown come July 1.

Photo by Reber Stein

Andrew Washburn, the registrar for the Alaska State Museum, was also part of that delegation.

“Of course a shutdown would mean a loss of revenue and ticket sales,” said Washburn. “But you cannot place a value on the sacred artifacts that we are responsible for.”

As a caretaker of the state’s identity, Washburn sees a government shutdown as a clear threat.

“What makes our state great is a balance between modern life and a way of life that’s gone on for thousands of years. This necessarily involves compromise,” he said.

The Alaska House and Senate are squabbling over how to plug Alaska's $2.7 billion deficit.