“The Future Depends on What We Do in the Present.”
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Mahatma Gandhi’s words have resonated strongly with me this past week while defending the budgets of Alaska’s education and public welfare systems. Now is not the time to reduce the level of services we offer students, or lose teachers due to pink slips as the result of delayed school budgets. Nor is it the time to require an ever-shrinking police force to handle ever-increasing cases with diminished resources.
Almost a month ago, I shared with you the Alaska House Majority Coalition’s Four Pillar Fiscal Plan. The pillars were: oil/gas reform; an income tax; protecting the dividend; and strategic cuts. Note the emphasis on strategic.
Since 2015, the University of Alaska system has had its budget reduced by $45 million dollars, and there have been proposals to either cut or eliminate funding for pre-kindergarten grants and programs, and reduce teacher positions while increasing student class sizes. The Alaska State Troopers have reduced their staff by 32 positions while reducing their budget by over $10 million dollars. The Criminal Division cut prosecutors and their support staff by 31 positions and the Department of Law was forced to turn away almost 7,000 cases it otherwise would have prosecuted. This means cases addressing domestic violence and sexual assault are not moving forward because they don’t have the resources. How can our communities be safe if we can’t process the cases?
These are not strategic cuts, which is why the Alaska House Majority Coalition made sure that:
It is important to note that because the U-Med Northern Access Road was defunded, we were able to reallocate at least $17million, which would have gone towards the construction of a $35 million dollar road 7/10th of a mile long, to support the future path to an strong and supported public education system for our Alaskan children.
Also on the topic of public safety and health, I would like to thank Governor Walker for raising awareness on Alaska’s opioid addiction crisis.
“When earthquakes, fires or floods claim lives and property on a large scale, a declaration of disaster is issued to prioritize the state’s response. This is no different. We must stop this opioid epidemic. My order ensures that our resources are properly allocated to tackle this challenge. However, this is only the first step. It provides a temporary solution; we must work on a long-term fix.” -Governor Walker
Finding a long-term fix for Alaska's opioid epidemic is only one of many reasons why continued funding for social services and public safety is so important. And in order to find these solutions, we need an educated and supported population living in our state, which is why sustained funding for education is so important.
To reiterate Gandhi’s words but in the context of our state: “The future of Alaska depends on what we do in the present to protect and nurture this Great Land.”
PS. I hope to see you at this tomorrow’s constituent meeting! Senator Begich and I are teaming up Saturday to hear any of your ideas, concerns, issues, priorities—your name it!