The Alaska Legislature is not going to finish its work on the State of Alaska budgets before the end of the month, and without an operating budget, pink slips could be issued on June 1 for a government shutdown July 1.
That’s how the Walker Administration handled it twice during similar legislative delays, as he used “fear theater” to try to harass the Republican-led Legislature.
But there will be no pink slips on Tuesday. They are not required and there’s no evidence the Legislature won’t get its work done.
By law, the Dunleavy Administration must give workers 10 working days notice if the government is likely to shut down. That day would be June 17. The special session ends June 18.
This is not to say that supervisors in the State won’t let workers know on Tuesday that the budget hasn’t been finalized, but since the budget is really on the five-yard line, Gov. Mike Dunleavy has not seen it helpful to jack up the workforce. Nor is it his way to play the games that Walker played.
Both sides — House and Senate — are close on the Operating and Capitol budgets, and the Permanent Fund dividend will be reconciled, although not to the satisfaction of many. The way the budget bill has been designed this year, with everything crammed into one budget, has just made the whole thing trickier.
Sending out the “fear theater” pink slips resulted in needless harm in 2015 and 2016. It caused workers to become distracted, and many did something that seemed rational to them at the time — they rushed to their doctors and dentists to get work done just in case they were out of work and out of benefits. The run on medical services caused the state to have to pay enormous medical costs that year as an unintended consequence.
The House and Senate conference committee is hashing out the differences between the two budgets, but have no meetings on the schedule over the Memorial Day weekend. Work is planned for Tuesday.
The State is awash in money from the American Rescue Plan Act, but that is not a comfort for the tens of thousands of state workers who are hearing from the media that they might get laid off.