I represent Growing Alaskan Leaders, a group of over 100 parents who live and work in Alaska and who deeply love this state. We value diversity and personal freedom, and we know that helping each other is the Alaska way of life. We want an Alaska we can live in, raise our children in, and that will be even better for our children than it has been for us.
We are deeply concerned about the budget proposed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy and the effect it would have not only on our children, but on our communities and the Alaska that we love. We know we are in a difficult fiscal situation — a recession with 39 straight months of job losses, and only a small amount left in the Constitutional Budget Reserve.
As a result, we strongly support taking a different approach.
Specifically, we believe we need new revenue to fund state government, including instituting a progressive income tax (which would be less harmful to families with children than cutting the PFD would be), and reexamining our oil tax credit system. Alaska offers so much to us and our families but we know it does not come for free. Not only do we want services for ourselves but we, as a group of Alaska families, strongly believe that all families and Alaskans should have access to those services.
This comes at a price and we are willing and wanting to pay the price. Please tax us.
We cannot have a functioning state if we are losing thousands of jobs, closing health care clinics due to the loss of federal Medicaid funds, and stripping away early childhood, K-12, health care access and social services. Our state constitution requires that we provide a free and adequate education for all children and the proposed budget would seriously undermine that requirement.
With our current funding, Alaska’s education system already is not competitive with other states. The proposed cuts to both our K-12 and university system would be devastating, and have long-term effects on our state and its residents.
Further, how well children do in school is predicted by their opportunities in the first five years of life. Currently, in a state with some of the least affordable child care and lowest preschool attendance, only 30 percent of our children are kindergarten-ready. We need to be increasing early childhood support (which research has found to have a $7-$17 return investment) rather than zeroing them out.
As parents of young children, we know how sensitive this period of brain development is, and how important state investment is at this age.
In addition, we are from communities all over Alaska, and stand with our sisters and brothers in rural Alaska who will be devastated by defunding the Alaska Marine Highway System, and the change to the power cost equalization fund. Children in rural Alaska deserve access to food, power and transportation, just as those in larger communities do.
We are actively working to support kids and families now, but we also want to ensure we have a state our kids want to live in once they’re adults. The governor’s budget will increase the brain drain that Alaska already experiences, and, as numerous nonpartisan economic analyses have found, will plunge us further into a recession.
The time is now to put Alaskans before politics, to stand up against the governor’s proposed budget and to create a budget that prioritizes healthy families and communities, supports successful schools and builds the basis for a healthy economy.
It’s also the time to start doing the hard work of finding new revenue to keep Alaska a wonderful place to raise our families.
• Sara Dykstra lives in Anchorage.