Will Muldoon, a data processing technician for the state of Alaska, boxes printed pink slip letters at a printing facility in the State Office Building on Tuesday, May 30, 2017. The letters will be sent to state employees on Thursday, June 1, if the legislature fails to pass a budget by then. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Will Muldoon, a data processing technician for the state of Alaska, boxes printed pink slip letters at a printing facility in the State Office Building on Tuesday, May 30, 2017. The letters will be sent to state employees on Thursday, June 1, if the legislature fails to pass a budget by then. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Alaska’s shutdown doom is now one month away

The letters came off the printer on Tuesday afternoon with the regularity of a ticking clock.

There is now one month remaining before Alaska’s state government, starved of funding, shuts down. On Tuesday, state employees were warned of that July 1 deadline by email.

“If we must do a government shutdown, this will impact your employment status with the state of Alaska,” said the email, sent by Sheldon Fisher, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration.

In the bowels of the State Office Building, a handful of state employees readied the formal letters that will provide contractual warning to all of Alaska’s public employees.

“We are required to give 10 (days), but it’s ideal to give 30,” said Kate Sheehan, deputy director of the Alaska Department of Administration and the person in charge of personnel issues.

While most employees have been following the news from the Capitol — or the lack of it — Sheehan said some temporary workers or remote workers may not be able to connect.

“We just have so many employees, especially in the summer, who don’t have access to our email,” she said. “To ensure we touch everyone and comply with contracts, we do it by mail.”

According to Department of Administration figures, there are 15,127 state employees across Alaska, and just over 3,000 in Juneau.

On Tuesday, the printing effort to warn those employees started about 10:30 a.m. on the fifth floor of the SOB.

“It’s about a six-hour process for me to print them,” said Chris White, the state’s data processing manager. “We’ll hopefully finish up about 6 o’clock tonight.”

After the printing comes a day or day and a half of envelope stuffing, then the notices head to the Juneau Post Office and out to mailboxes across Alaska.

This is the third consecutive year the Alaska Department of Administration has had to muster a warning effort.

In 2015, Alaska lawmakers approved a operating budget in May but failed to figure out how to pay for it until June 11, 10 days after the state warned its employees.

The next year, lawmakers reached a budget deal on Memorial Day, in time to stop the state from mailing the warnings.

“In prior years it’s been a go/no-go right up until the final moment,” White said.

“This year doesn’t have that feeling at all,” said Minta Montalbo, a spokeswoman for the Department of Administration.

In 2017, a budget deal seems distant. As Montalbo spoke, the Alaska House of Representatives held a technical session before adjourning until Friday. Fewer than half the seats in the chamber were filled.

Lawmakers in the majority that runs the House and lawmakers in the majority that run the Senate remain divided about how to solve the state’s multibillion-dollar deficit.

If there is no agreement before July 1, the consequences are titanic. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game, which manages the state’s salmon fisheries, will withdraw its workers from camps intended to govern the commercial harvest. The multibillion-dollar salmon fishery will be extraordinarily limited or stopped altogether.

The state-run Alaska Marine Highway will shut down, isolating Juneau and island communities throughout Southeast Alaska.

Pothole crews will hang up their shovels, and public assistance programs for food stamps and other aid will close.

If the state follows its 2015 playbook, troopers will stay on duty, but everyone else will go home and stay there until the Legislature passes a budget. Following a shutdown, employees will be allowed to come back to work without re-interviewing for their jobs. It will be like a furlough, something many state employees are already required to endure.

The state of Alaska has never endured a total government shutdown.

“We’re pretty confident they’re going to get their jobs done,” Montalbo said. “I mean, they have to. There’s huge implications if they don’t.”


• Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 419-7732.


Alaska Department of Administration spokeswoman Minta Montalbo, left, and Kate Sheehan, deputy director of the Alaska Department of Administration talk about pink slip letters being printed in the State Office Building on Tuesday, May 30, 2017. The letters will be sent to state employees on Thursday, June 1, if the legislature fails to pass a budget by then. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Alaska Department of Administration spokeswoman Minta Montalbo, left, and Kate Sheehan, deputy director of the Alaska Department of Administration talk about pink slip letters being printed in the State Office Building on Tuesday, May 30, 2017. The letters will be sent to state employees on Thursday, June 1, if the legislature fails to pass a budget by then. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of June 8

Here’s what to expect this week.

Bill Thomas, a former Republican state representative from Haines, announced Friday he is dropping out of the race for the District 3 House seat this fall. (U.S. Sustainability Alliance photo)
Bill Thomas drops out of District 3 House race, says there isn’t time for fishing and campaigning

Haines Republican cites rough start to commercial season; incumbent Andi Story now unopposed.

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, speaks at the Alaska Democratic Party’s state convention on May 18 at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Peltola among few Democrats to vote for annual defense bill loaded with GOP ‘culture war’ amendments

Alaska congresswoman expresses confidence “poison pills” will be removed from final legislation.

A celebratory sign stands outside Goldbelt Inc.’s new building during the Alaska Native Regional Corporation’s 50th-anniversary celebration on Jan. 4. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Medical company sues Goldbelt for at least $30M in contract dispute involving COVID-19 vaccine needles

Company says it was stuck with massive stock of useless needles due to improper specs from Goldbelt.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Wednesday, June 12, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

A yearling black bear waits for its mother to return. Most likely she won’t. This time of year juvenile bears are separated, sometimes forcibly, by their mothers as families break up during mating season. (Photo courtesy K. McGuire)
Bearing witness: Young bears get the boot from mom

With mating season for adults underway, juveniles seek out easy food sources in neighborhoods.

A chart shows COVID-19 pathogen levels at the Mendenhall wastewater treatment plant during the past three months. (Data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Wastewater Surveillance System)
Juneau seeing another increase in COVID-19 cases, but a scarcity of self-test kits

SEARHC, Juneau Drug have limited kits; other locations expect more by Saturday.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks to reporters during a news conference Feb. 7. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Gov. Dunleavy picks second ex-talk radio host for lucrative fish job after first rejected

Rick Green will serve at least through Legislature’s next confirmation votes in the spring of 2025.

A used gondola being installed at Eaglecrest Ski Area may not begin operating until 2027, according to Goldbelt Inc. President and CEO McHugh Pierre, whose company is providing $10 million for installation costs. (Eaglecrest Ski Area photo)
Eaglecrest Ski Area gondola may not open until 2027 due to CBJ delays, Goldbelt CEO says

Agreement with city allows Goldbelt to nix $10M deal if gondola doesn’t open by May 31, 2028.

Most Read