Muldoon Memo - 1/26

It’s great to be back working with the Freshman Caucus as well. This group is forging a better, more cooperative future for the Alaska Legislature and I’m excited to be a part of it!

I’m back in Juneau after a busy offseason! It was so great to take time to dig deep on issues facing our community, to make new connections with community leaders, and to meet so many of you, my neighbors and constituents.


Education Update


With the legislature back in session, attention has turned quickly to the education crisis facing our state. I have been hearing from many folks, including parents, teachers, principals, our ASD school board members, and school district superintendents throughout the state. The message is consistent--Alaska's schools need a significantly larger increase in funding than is currently in the education bill currently before us. There has also been fantastic feedback about other measures in the bill, and a call to maintain local control of charter schools.


The bill and process are very complex right now. I could try to summarize the developments over the last week here, but Alaska is blessed with a thriving local media that can do that for me. Check out recaps from:


Alaska Public Media


Alaska Beacon


Anchorage Daily News


I’m expecting a long day on the Floor working on this bill today. There is much more to come. Stay tuned.

Alaska schools aren’t asking for anything new, just to give them back the purchasing power they’ve lost to inflation over the last decade.

A Broader Crisis

Although the legislature is focused most acutely on education this week, Alaska has dangerously underfunded and under-resourced other key state functions to the point where they’re simply unable to provide a competent level of service.


You may have read about the issues that the Department of Health and Social Services is having keeping folks enrolled in SNAP, Medicaid and keeping their benefits flowing. This should be no surprise. In 2021, Governor Dunleavy cut 100 positions—more than half the staff—from the division that processes benefit claims, saving ~$7,000,000 for the state. These cuts precipitated an enrollment capacity crunch that at one point cut SNAP enrollment by more than 70% and has left tens of thousands of people eligible for Medicaid without coverage.


During Anchorage’s debilitating snowfall last November, Alaska DOT was unable to keep state roads in Anchorage clear, requiring the city to divert its equipment to cover the state’s responsibilities. Clearing roads and sidewalks is still insufficient in many areas of town. It's clear that the current level of resourcing is insufficient. My Anchorage Delegation co-chair, Senator Kaufman, is working on this in the Senate Transportation Committee, and is one of the priority items for the Anchorage Delegation to tackle this session.


A critical component of any plan to revitalize our state government is to increase pay for state employees to reduce vacancies and turnover. Unfortunately, Alaska today is losing employees because our state payroll division is too understaffed to pay our current employees the wages they’re owed in a timely and correct fashion.


Although no organization is perfect, these agencies, just like our schools, aren’t calling out for dramatic operational reforms, they’re calling out for sufficient resources to do their jobs. More funding so that they can pay enough to attract and retain high-quality staff, ability to upgrade long-degraded infrastructure and IT systems, more support so that they can keep the bottom of our state from falling out, as it has these last few years.


Community Calendar

1/28, 3 pm - Coffee Chat - Cafecito Bonito


2/1, 6:30 pm - Scenic Foothills Community Council - Congregation Beth Shalom


2/10, 4-5:30 pm - East Anchorage Town Hall with Senator Wielechowski - Chester Valley Elementary School


2/15, 7 pm - Northeast Community Council - Creekside Park Elementary Gym

Stay Connected
You can find me at community council meetings and my regular Coffee Chats at Cafecito Bonito. You can always reach me by email at rep.donna.mears@akleg.gov, by phone at 907-465-3438, or in person by appointment. If you’re on social media, please follow my
official Facebook page.


If you'd like to follow the legislature more closely on your own, I encourage you to go to http://akleg.gov and dive in. A tutorial for operating the legislature's website is available here. Feel free to call my office if you can’t find what you’re looking for or have any questions.