Facing cuts, Juneau Assembly urges Legislature to build a better budget

A woman crosses Marine Way in front of Juneau City Hall on Sept. 25, 2017. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

A woman crosses Marine Way in front of Juneau City Hall on Sept. 25, 2017. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

The Juneau Assembly unanimously passed a resolution Monday calling on the Alaska Legislature to work towards a state budget that won’t shift the cost of services like education and health care to municipalities.

The city says it will lose an estimated $7.8 million in funding next fiscal year from the cuts proposed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget. $7.1 million would result from school bond debt reimbursement and $400,000 would come from the loss of revenue from shared fisheries taxes. The Juneau School District stands to lose $10 million through cuts to state education foundation funding. Cuts to Medicaid would mean a loss of more than $6 million for Bartlett Regional Hospital.

Assembly member Alicia Hughes-Skandijs said she feels it’s been clear from legislative hearings so far that the proposed budget does not take into account real-life impacts on Alaskans.

She suggested removing language from the resolution that voiced appreciation for the Dunleavy administration’s work on the budget, a suggestion which the other members accepted.

“I hope this resolution, in combination with resolutions from other communities around the state, is going to send a message to the Legislature and the administration that this is going to affect every single Alaskan, and that all of the municipalities are united in that this doesn’t work for us,” Hughes-Skandijs said after the meeting.

Members of the Assembly attended the Alaska Municipal League conference in Juneau two weeks ago. Mayor Beth Weldon said much of the discussion focused on the governor’s budget and its impact on local economies. She wanted the Assembly’s resolution to remain diplomatic, despite the strong feelings constituents have expressed.

“They also called upon us to have town meetings … to educate our citizens about how this governor’s budget, if it passed today, would impact the community,” Weldon said afterward.

Weldon said she and City Manager Rorie Watt will pick out dates in the coming weeks to hold town halls for the community.

Read the draft version of the Assembly’s resolution below. Note that the final version will add language referring to both the public and private sector in the third “whereas” paragraph and will remove Section 1 entirely:

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