THE FIGHT OVER SCARCE DOLLARS BEGINS
The governor’s budget had no sooner been released, when 30 union members, led in song by AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami, swarmed the Third Floor of the Capitol, in front of the Governor’s Office, singing the old Pete Seeger union organizing song:
Oh workers can you stand it?
Oh tell me how you can.
Will you be a lousy scab
Or will you be a man?
Which side are you on, boys, which side are you on?
Union members from various shops roamed the floors of the Capitol, going into each lawmaker’s office and asking them or their staffs, point blank, “Which side are you on?”
Outside the Capitol, a group of education, climate, and health care advocates, along with several Democrat lawmakers, stood in protest. Spotted were House members Andi Story of Juneau, Zack Fields (Anchorage union worker in his other job), and Grier Hopkins of Fairbanks.
The press releases went out from the Democrats:
Sen. Donny Olson issued a statement, calling the governor’s budget a declaration of war on rural Alaska. “It’s one of those things where it appears to me that he’s declaring war on rural residents in particular,” said the Golovin Democrat.
“It is quite clear that Governor Dunleavy does not take his job and our state’s Constitution seriously. The trend he is setting for the state is evident; strip public assets to fill private pockets. This is unacceptable, and quite frankly a dereliction of his constitutional duties,” said Sen. Tom Begich, and Anchorage Democrat. “The Senate Democrats will continue to work across party lines to build a proper budget that rebuilds safe communities, provides a world-class Pre-K through UA system, and delivers access to quality, affordable healthcare.”
“Governor Dunleavy is declaring war on seniors, kids, and the most vulnerable among us while holding harmless the most profitable companies in the world. Cutting Senior Benefits, education, and healthcare while increasing his own budget and not touching $1.9 billion in oil tax credits shows where his priorities lie, and it is not with Alaska,” said Sen. Bill Wielechowski, an Anchorage Democrat.
“Governor Dunleavy continues to ignore the cause of over 90 percent of crime in Alaska. Solely locking people up and throwing away the key is not the fiscally prudent answer. Substance abuse treatment and mental health services, combined with a strong education system, are the key to rebuilding safe communities and saving the state money for the long-term. Continuing to paralyze public safety with significant cuts to Troopers and VPSOs, who are the first line of defense for thousands of Alaskans, shows his lack of understanding of rural Alaska needs. If the Governor’s goal is to create more criminals, then this budget succeeds at that,” said Sen. Scott Kawasaki, a Fairbanks Democrat.
“Alaskans should be shocked not only at the debilitating budget cuts to education, health and social services, transportation, and the university, but at the callous disregard shown by the governor and his Outside budget director as to how these cuts affect the lives of people who live here,” said Jay Parmley, executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party. “Alaskans have the right to expect constitutionally mandated adequate education for our children, a high-quality university system, a Health and Social Services department that is equipped to care for Alaskans in need, and a transportation system that serves the unique needs of our state.”
Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz was also ready:
“We’re gonna fight this. We’re gonna make sure that as many improvements can be made, as should be made, because this is not who we are. I am confident that the people of the state of Alaska are gonna rise to the occasion. This budget represents an attack on who we are. It represents an attack on individual Alaskans, on Alaskan families, on Alaskan communities, on Alaskan businesses. And we have, as we showed in the earthquake, demonstrated an ability to come together in order to combat adversity. This is adversity.
The Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association sent out a blistering statement, calling the budget “outrageous,” and said it will lead to “a state of despair for the future.”