Thousands of Alaskan families likely breathed a sigh of relief May 31 when the legislature passed its budget to avoid a government shutdown less than 24 hours before the deadline to issue layoff warnings. Last year, pink slips did go out. Nothing has been done yet this year to ensure we don’t repeat this next year.
Once again, the legislature voted to balance the budget by drawing down the constitutional budget reserve. In just two years, we will have drawn $7.6 billion from savings.
The State House and Senate just passed the Conference Committee Operating Budget bill and, to no surprise, it reveals that little progress was made to reduce the cost of State government. Despite continued claims of significant operating budget cuts, the budget numbers published by the Legislative Finance Division tell a different story: (http://www.legfin.state.ak.us/BudgetReports/LY2016/Operating/SelectBudge...).
As a mother and grandmother and through my work with foster youth and the Alaska Children’s Trust, I have realized that few things are of higher priority to me than the safety and well-being of our youth and families.
Pomp and Circumstance has stopped playing as the graduation season has ended. Occasionally, I still hear a few measures rattling around in my brain so that only leads to the notion that I also have a few musings about graduation to mutter.
Since the usual tradition of me writing about graduation was forgone this year due to a choice to focus solely on my own son’s graduation (way to go Ian R. Armstrong, you are rocking awesome!), I guess instead of featuring the accomplishments of this year’s crop of seniors, I get to make a few comments.
As the Legislature nears the end of the constitutional 120-day session, I am gravely concerned about the possible outcome.
Our state is in a difficult fiscal position. Due mainly to world oil prices and our over-dependence on oil, we have only about one-fifth of the revenue we need to balance the budget. And that’s after several years of budget cuts and almost no capital investment.
Government's most important mandate is public safety. Over the last 20 years, government in Alaska made a decision to hold criminal offenders accountable for their crimes by creating meaningful prison sentences, thus crime rates have dropped by 42 percent. If we still had the same levels of crime as we had in 1995, an additional 15,000 Alaskans would be crime victims every single year. When we look back at that strong record of success, we need to be certain that any changes we make to the criminal justice system will improve the lives and safety of law-abiding Alaskans.
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. It gives us all the opportunity to show our support to survivors of sexual violence, and become part of the broader change we know needs to happen to reduce the epidemic of sexual assault and abuse in our state.