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July 30, 2019 / This week from The Signal

What happens when the marine highway closes?
What happens when the budget gets cut?
What is happening?
Galen Huntsman and Arianne Swihart with their three children — Tobie, Azriel and Aurora — in the one-room apartment the family shares at Safe Harbor, a supportive housing facility for families transitioning out of homelessness. The room is far from ideal, but the situation is manageable: The family pays $550 a month in rent. But the couple is worried that they may lose the housing and programs they rely on due to budget vetoes and gridlock in Juneau. (Photo and story by Zachariah Hughes/Alaska Public Media)

But first… tell us your budget cut story


If you're a big news junkie like me, you might've come across some articles lately about how hundreds of millions of dollars were cut from Alaska's state budget. When something like that happens, it's a safe bet that a lot of everyday Alaskans will be affected.

Are you an everyday Alaskan? Have the budget cuts affected you in any way? We want to hear about it! Share your budget cut stories by filling out this form or by leaving a voicemail at 907-586-1600. Your contributions will go a long way in helping us deliver meaningful reporting on the state's budget issues.

Speaking of budget stories…

There's about a week left in the Alaska Legislature's second special session, and things are happening.
  • Standing capi-tall: With just a couple days left before the state could lose almost $1 billion in matching federal funds, Andrew Kitchenman of KTOO and Alaska Public Media tells us that the Legislature has passed a bill to fund the capital budget and handed it off to Gov. Mike Dunleavy for his signature. As of press-send-on-this-email time, the governor has yet to indicate his intentions, but he did say he's glad the bill passed.
  • Partially Full Dividend: Meanwhile, Andrew says that lawmakers have passed another bill that sets this year's PFD at $1,600 and reinstates all but $21 million of Dunleavy's $390 million in budget vetoes. The governor was less pleased with this bill, calling it "a disappointment." Dunleavy says he will likely veto parts of the bill, but as for what specifically will be vetoed, he says "that's to be determined."
  • SUNY prospects: As KTOO's Zoe Grueskin reports, these are uncertain times for University of Alaska students. As such, the State University of New York wasn't too shy to capitalize on that uncertainty, as the school briefly targeted Alaska college students with Facebook ads. The recruitment ads have since been removed.
  • Civilly alarmed: Anchorage officials are taking bold steps in response to the state budget cuts. Last week, the mayor of Anchorage declared a civil emergency because, as Alaska Public Media's Zachariah Hughes points out, the city is expecting a big uptick in homelessness and public safety issues. City officials say the governor cut $5.8 million in state support for Anchorage's homeless assistance and social support programs.

Gridlock on the marine highway

Last week, the largest union representing Alaska Marine Highway System workers went on strike for the first time since 1977.
  • Ketchikan't go anywhere: Immediately after the strike was announced last Wednesday, crew and passengers alike walked off the ferry Columbia onto the streets of Ketchikan. CoastAlaska's Jacob Resneck reports that while negotiators reached an impasse, many ferry passengers were trying to figure out how to get back home.
  • State strikes back: As the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific keeps the anchor down on state ferries, Joe Viechnicki of KFSK-Petersburg reported on Friday that the state struck back with a warning to IBU members. State officials say the workers won't be paid health insurance premiums or unemployment compensation if the strike lasts beyond Aug. 1.
  • Food: Some smaller coastal communities rely on the state ferry system to bring them groceries and other goods. One such community is Gustavus. Without the ferries, KTOO's Jeremy Hsieh says the city of 450 residents is scrambling to figure out how to keep shelves stocked during the strike.
  • No fair ferry fare: If you were planning on taking the ferry to the Southeast Alaska State Fair this past weekend, you were out of luck. Henry Leasia of KHNS-Haines found some folks who were forced to adjust their travel plans.

Video of the week

Do you guys miss winter? If this summer's record-breaking heat made you wish you could enclose yourself in a giant ice cave, then consider living vicariously through KTOO's Matt Miller as he dips underneath the Mendenhall Glacier. This video, recorded earlier this year, was shot with a 360-degree camera, so feel free to look around.

More news around Alaska

The Signal is written by KTOO digital media editor Ryan Cunningham
and edited by KTOO managing editor Jennifer Pemberton.

KTOO News is member supported.

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