Ferry boats will stop running. The watchdog agency that fines politicians for violating campaign finance rules will close. People who break hunting and fishing laws will have a better chance of getting away with the crimes.
That's a sample of what the looming Alaska government shutdown would mean for the state, according to department heads. All told, more than 10,000 state employees will be laid off if the Legislature does not adopt a fully funded spending plan for the budget year that begins July 1, Gov. Bill Walker said Monday.
Not all state departments will slash staff and services. Public Safety, including Alaska State Troopers, and Corrections, which runs Alaska prisons, will operate as normal. The Permanent Fund Division will continue processing dividends.
In other departments, entire offices will be laid off, promising a ripple effect of reduced services. Each agency on Monday announced how it would operate under a shut down.
So the department that pays Alaskans their government handouts will keep on rocking, but 10,000 employees will get laid off. That seems fair. And state lawmakers are nowhere close to a deal.
The House’s budget deal included about $30 million added to a previous state spending plan — concessions made by the Republican-led majority to the Democratic minority. The deal also preserved the raises for state workers, though it balanced that cost with the $30 million unspecified cut.
Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, said her caucus on Monday made a counteroffer that would have preserved the $30 million in concessions in the House budget.
About half of that $30 million would go toward canceling a cut proposed to the state’s per-student education funding formula, with the other half going toward Democratic priorities like the state’s ferry and university systems.
McGuire said in an interview that the Senate was also prepared to add another $16 million in education grant money to the House deal, which would partially restore a cut originally proposed by Gov. Bill Walker. But her chamber refused to budge when it came to canceling the pay raises for state workers, some of which are contractually obligated.
Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, the co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, on Sunday said those raises shouldn’t be contemplated with the state facing multibillion-dollar budget gaps that he called a “deficit tsunami.”
McGuire said she thought the Democrats would accept the deal and characterized their willingness to concede the pay raises as a “glacier that finally calved.”
But that wasn’t the case. Tuck, the Democratic leader, said his caucus remained committed to keeping the state’s contracts with union workers, given that Democrats have already given up on many of their priorities. Those include big cuts in the state tax credits granted to oil companies, as well as expansion of the public Medicaid health care program to cover about 40,000 low-income Alaskans.
“We are committed to honoring those union contracts. There wasn’t a price they could give us to go back on our word on that,” Tuck, who works as a union representative, said in a phone interview late Monday.
“If they want to honor the tax credits to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, I don’t see why we can’t do that with labor contracts.”
So Alaska Republicans would rather kill Medicaid expansion, cut state worker raises and trash school spending rather than give up oil companies' hundreds of millions in tax breaks.
And people wonder why there's a "deficit tsunami" in the state. I can't imagine why.