Alaskans value a high quality of life, and toward that effort, seek to influence budget legislation. Education, elder care, power cost equalization, health care and an adequately funded Alaska Marine Highway System are among crucial state services that contribute to long lasting and meaningful difference in the lives of Alaska citizens.
In Southeast Alaska, the AMHS provides two things for coastal Alaska: access and connectivity. The proposed budget not only scales down the AMHS, it vastly cuts service, piecemeal at a time. Imagine the end result: zero ferry service to our coastal communities.
The economic impact study of the AMHS by the McDowell Group touts the benefits, but if we look into our crystal ball, what are the socioeconomic pitfalls? The loss might spur a recession that the Legislature has worked to prevent. It is difficult to balance oil revenue with the cost of essential government service.
I have a big problem with taking away critical government services, especially because Alaska is an owner state with vast natural resources. Imagine our wealth being used to prop up “for profit” corporations with financial riches that benefit solely their shareholders. Sure, there are residual outcomes, but the onerous budget cuts only serve to cripple local communities.
Are the budget reductions really worth downsizing our quality of life? Certainly efficiencies have a place in the discussion. And I recognize the responsibility before the special conference committee appointed to hammer out the budget. Let’s hope the outcomes are worthy to us all.
• My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.