Veto override needed to prevent financially vulnerable seniors from losing up to 25 percent of their income
JUNEAU – Governor Mike Dunleavy on Friday unveiled unprecedented budget vetoes that will burden Alaska’s most financially at-risk elders, unless the Legislature achieves the three-quarter vote required to override the governor’s decision.
The governor’s cuts eliminate the Senior Benefits Program, which provides essential monthly payments to thousands of fixed-income seniors:
• 1,742 elders with monthly income of $942 or less will lose their monthly stipend of $250 due to the governor’s veto;
• 5,082 elders with monthly income of $943 to $1,255 will lose their monthly stipend of $175;
• 4,496 elders with monthly income of $1,256 to $2,197 will lose their monthly stipend of $76.
Seniors participating in the program do not live in a Pioneer Home or nursing home, and are often struggling to make ends meet on a fixed income.
“The governor gave Alaska’s most financially vulnerable seniors 72 hours’ notice that their income would be dramatically reduced,” said Rep. Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage). “Even if we achieve a veto override, thousands of people are struggling today because of this unconscionable decision.”
Representative Drummond co-chairs the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee and earlier this year declined to advance the governor’s HB 60, which would have eliminated the Senior Benefits Program from statute.
“Taking care of our seniors who built the foundation of our state is not a partisan issue. This cut does absolutely nothing to solve Alaska’s underlying budget challenges and instead demands that seniors give up money they use to pay for food, medication, and basic survival in a state with an extremely high cost-of-living,” said House Majority Leader Steve Thompson (R-Fairbanks).
A special session is scheduled to convene on July 8. Veto overrides must occur within five days of the session’s start.
ATTACHMENT: Senior Benefits Program fact sheet prepared by the Department of Health and Social Services.
Communications Director, Alaska House Majority