Gov. Bill Walker says most state employees will get layoff notices in June if the Alaska legislature does not approve a fully funded budget for next fiscal year.
In an email to state employees this morning, Walker says he plans to sign the FY16 budget lawmakers sent him last month, but will veto portions that are not funded.
Lawmakers last month approved a $5 billion budget that only provides $2 billion in funding. The governor called a 30-day special session on April 27, but so far legislators have been unable to reach a budget deal. The shortfall could be made up by tapping the state’s Constitutional Budget Reserve, but that requires support from three-quarters of lawmakers in both bodies. The Democratic-led House Minority wants to reverse cuts to education and other programs in exchange for voting to use the savings account. Members of that caucus also want action on Medicaid expansion and a bill to provide sexual assault education in schools.
In his email to state workers, Walker says he’ll ensure the budget “is used for critical priorities such as life, health, and safety.”
He also says he hopes the legislature can “come together and finish their work with enough time to keep the State government running beyond July 1st.”
Walker will hold a press conference in Anchorage today at 1:30 p.m.
Below is the email Walker sent to state employees:
From: Alaska Governor Bill Walker (GOV sponsored)
Sent: Monday, May 18, 2015 8:02 AM
Subject: From the Desk of the Governor
Dear State Employee:
I want to let you know about an action I must take later today. As you know, the Legislature was not able to reach a compromise to get the required votes to access funds in the Constitutional Budget Reserve. Therefore, the unfunded budget transmitted in HB 72 for fiscal year 2016 provides State spending appropriations of $5 billion, but only provides $2 billion in State funding. As a result, I had no choice but to call the Legislature into special session on April 27th. Since then, I have been working with legislators to either reach a compromise to fully fund their budget or pass a new budget with full funding, but they have not been able to get there.
I have made clear I cannot accept a budget that is not fully funded. To do so would put the State in the position of not being able to fulfill our obligations. This is unacceptable.
Later today, I will sign the budget bill the legislature passed in April. However, I have little choice but to veto the unfunded items in the bill. That means I will sign the fiscal year 2015 supplemental portion of the bill, as that is fully funded, but I will veto portions of the fiscal year 2016 budget, as that is not fully funded. Should the Legislature not pass a fully funded budget before July 1st, I will ensure the money that is in HB 72 is used for critical priorities such as life, health, and safety.
One consequence of HB 72 being unfunded for 2016 is most State employees will receive a layoff notice in early June if the Legislature fails to pass a fully funded budget by that time. We have until July 1st before we need to start shutting down any State functions that are not necessary to protect the life, health, and safety of Alaskans. However, we have contractual and moral obligations to let our employees know they may be temporarily laid off on July 1st if the budget is unfunded.
It is my sincere hope members of the Legislature can come together and finish their work with enough time to keep the State government running beyond July 1st. I will work every day to help legislators do this. I am committed to keeping our State open and ready for business.
I value the work each and every one of you do daily. You educate our children; you keep our airports open, our roads plowed, our communities safe, our seniors protected, and provide so many more critical functions. We rely on you to make Alaska the great state it is. I am gravely concerned the legislative stalemate continues to interrupt the hard work you do every day to serve fellow Alaskans.
Over the next few weeks, we will work together to keep Alaskans healthy and to provide for a sustainable fiscal future. I will keep in touch with you as we make progress.
Thank you for all you do.
State of Alaska