News-Miner opinion: It’s been just over a week since Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced his veto of more than $400 million in general fund dollars from the state operating budget for fiscal 2020, which began on July 1.
Instead of the Daily News-Miner’s voice in this editorial, we give you the distressed voices of others in our community who will have to deal with the consequences of the governor’s vetoes if the Legislature doesn’t override them.
Much of the attention, rightly so, has been focused on the massive reduction the governor has made to the budget of the University of Alaska. But numerous other vetoes will affect Alaskans of all sorts if allowed to stand.
The Legislature is set to convene Monday in a special session during which it will consider overriding the vetoes. The site of that session is a separate source of disagreement between the governor and the Legislature and within the Legislature itself. Will it be Juneau as legislative leaders want or Wasilla as the governor insists he has the right to declare?
Regardless, time will be short for the Legislature to act on the vetoes. The Alaska Constitution gives the Legislature five days from the start of its next regular or special session.
That means this week is the week.
Here now are the words of just a few of the many worried residents of the Fairbanks community, taken from interviews with the Daily News-Miner and from remarks at a town hall gathering Wednesday at Pioneer Park:
“We only have six staff members total and when you’re looking at cutting one of those, you’re going to have to cut a whole program.”
— Jason Kempthorne, Love INC, Fairbanks
“There’s nothing to cut. Almost all of our income goes to shelter coverage. We get a lot of donations from the community already. We could maybe get more trash bags, but I don’t think that’s going to make up for losing that much money.”
— Marylee Bates, Fairbanks Youth Advocates, which runs The Door, a Fairbanks shelter for homeless youths
“The end result of the elimination of these funds are more people wandering the streets, severely reduced services for youth, prolonged homelessness for those in emergency shelter, more mental health crises, more evictions that could be prevented, more people languishing in addiction.”
— Fairbanks Rescue Mission post on its Facebook page
“I’m going to be really honest ... we usually live paycheck to paycheck, we as a family, when we get our PFDs our savings account doubles or triples, but I tell you, that PFD pales in comparison to having an Alaska that I want to raise my children in.”
— Christina Turman, a lifelong Alaskan and a mother of two children, speaking at the town hall
“It’s going to close down one complete house we have for individuals who are affected by trauma in their lifetime and are having difficulties being housed in traditional means. Closing that house will mean there will be eight individuals who will immediately lose their housing.”
— Brenda Stanfill, executive director for the Interior Alaska Center for Non-Violent Living
“So he basically cut all of the Head Start funding for Alaska, and what that means for us is we lost an entire classroom.”
— Logan Felli, a Head Start teacher with Thrivalaska in Fairbanks, speaking at an outdoor rally
“What happened Friday, for the first time in my life I don’t see a future for my children in this state.”
— John George, father of three young boys and program director of UAF’s Fire Science program, speaking at the Pioneer Park event
“If there isn’t a veto override I think we’re in bad shape as a state and our education system is going to be deeply impacted, and we don’t even know the extent of that yet.”
— Victor Joseph, chairman, Tanana Chiefs Conference, which operates Head Start and other programs throughout the Interior
“This is the saddest day since I came to Alaska 50 years ago. For 50 years, I’ve been working to support ASCA and its programs. It’s my passion. It’s not time to kiss it goodbye.”
— Peggy Ferguson, executive director of Fairbanks Drama Association, regarding the elimination of the Alaska State Council on the Arts
“Basically, at this point, there will be less local production and more of a national aspect.”
— Keith Martin, general manager of public radio and television station KUAC in Fairbanks
Many more people have expressed their views on the Daily News-Miner’s opinion pages in the days since governor announced his vetoes. The sentiment is loud and clear: The vetoes will hurt Alaska if not overturned.