For months, city officials in Juneau and other communities across the state have warned that proposed cuts to the state budget would push the financial burden onto local taxpayers.
As the Alaska Legislature continues to grapple with the state’s budget, Juneau will be dealing with the direct and indirect impacts of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetoes.
During a meeting last week, Juneau Assembly member Rob Edwardson echoed a point that was a common refrain during city budget meetings throughout the spring.
“This isn’t a cost cut, this is a cost shift,” Edwardson said. “These things, our citizens are going to end up paying for, where it was the state rightfully paying for it to begin with.”
The Juneau Assembly will determine how to make up the difference at upcoming meetings. They may use savings to cover debt payments for now and increase property taxes later.
Bartlett Regional Hospital also expects to raise service fees in order to make up for a $1.5 million loss in Medicaid funding.
Those are things it’s easy to put an immediate price tag on.
As Assembly member Michelle Bonnet Hale pointed out, it’s harder to know how residents will feel the impact on an individual level.
“I’m very concerned by immediate impacts on people’s lives, like people losing their senior benefits with no warning,” Hale said.
Patrick Kearney is one of more than 300 seniors in Juneau who qualify for the state’s Senior Benefits Program. He had heard cuts were coming, but he thought he might be exempt — until his check didn’t arrive earlier this week.
While he didn’t rely on the income, he said he did budget for it.
“I had, like, $175 extra to spend. So now I’m going to have to be even more cautious,” Kearney said.
He said he mainly used the money for groceries and extra things, like occasional trips to the movies.
Now he’s waiting to see what happens.
“Part of me wants to (say), ‘OK, do I get ready to move out of Alaska?’ But where do I go?” Kearney said.
Other impacts that are hard to quantify just yet include the University of Alaska, which lost $134 million in state funding. That could endanger programs and research at the University of Alaska Southeast campus.
Homeless and housing service providers and early childhood education also saw significant cuts, raising questions about how those programs will be affected locally.
On Monday, the Juneau Assembly will consider a resolution calling on the Alaska Legislature to restore vetoed funding to the state operating budget.
Things are happening in Alaska
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- Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy is scheduled to announce at 2 p.m. Monday whether he’s signed or vetoed permanent fund dividends and reversals of his earlier budget vetoes. The announcement will be delivered in a video address, which you can watch here when it becomes publicly available.
- Gov. Dunleavy has reversed himself and declared support for subsidized broadband internet for rural libraries and a free service allowing online tutors for students. The governor had previously vetoed the $809,100 in funding.
- A 19-mile stretch of the Parks Highway was closed some 80 miles north of Anchorage, as authorities called for the evacuation of a subdivision that only has one road in and out.
- Master Gardener Ed Buyarski describes how humans can intervene and help out with the pollination process.