I have lived in Alaska since 1957. I attended school in Juneau and I earned my master’s degree at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. I taught for more than 25 years in Alaska schools and I cherish this state.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget knocks the wind out of me. If passed, it will eviscerate our beloved state. It is our responsibility as citizens to strongly urge our Legislature to do everything possible to fix this travesty.
I am opposed to cutting $303 million from the K-12 school formula, in violation of state law and the constitution. Cutting 100 positions from Juneau schools, for example, reduces education to mediocrity, a recipe for teacher and student failure. As a former superintendent, I’m sure Dunleavy knows this.
Cutting the universities by almost half is a total mistake. In my family alone, my husband and I benefited from the University of Alaska in our graduate training. The affordability of our state universities allowed our children the opportunity to earn bachelor’s degrees, which they are putting to good use in professional careers. The governor’s proposed budget reductions will destroy our universities and the dreams of young people like ours. It will devastate our professional work force.
Eliminating early childhood programs handicaps children who may already lack literacy advantages because of their home circumstances. It removes the possibility of a level playing field for these children as they enter school. This is not just.
I’m opposed to cutting the senior benefits program and reducing funding for the Pioneer Homes by half. Our state has little to offer seniors who have given their entire lives to improving Alaska; reducing these benefits makes Alaska unaffordable for elders. This places families in a terrible situation of hardship.
Finally, destroying our Alaska Marine Highway System will damage all of us in Southeast who rely on the ferries for transportation. Alaskans who live on the road system up north don’t seem to grasp that ferries are our highways. They are how we get from one place to another. What would it be like for them if the road system up north was suddenly closed off? For us, dismantling the ferries accomplishes the same thing.
And there’s more. Health care, Medicaid reduction, elimination of public broadcasting funds, public safety, power cost equalization. This administration is removing the services that improve the quality of our lives. Yet the governor’s own budget increases by 7.6 percent and oil tax credits in the amount of $1.9 billion remain? Something is wrong with this picture.
Perhaps the governor was trying to get our attention. Previous administrations and legislatures have kicked the can down the road, refusing to consider responsible alternative revenue streams. Other states tax residents and don’t give money away. Alaska needs to stop the tax credits to the oil and gas companies. We need to cap the Permanent Fund or distribute it in a means-based way to needy Alaskans. We must institute a progressive income tax that appropriately taxes those who spend most of their time and money in the Lower 48.
Alaskans, we must urge our Legislature to do everything possible to prevent this administration from giving away money to oil companies and the wealthy, many of whom don’t even live in our state. Rather than cutting the things we value, we must invest in education, health care and transportation for the people of our state. This is how to improve our economy and this is the job of those who govern.
• Luann McVey is a retired teacher who lives on Douglas.