Update – July 14, 2019
The failure of the Legislature to override the Governor’s budget vetoes this week is disheartening, and we encourage lawmakers to find a way to immediately fund the areas that are in need. United Way of Anchorage remains committed to help ensure the health, education and financial stability of every person in our community. We believe that the proposed budget vetoes do not help craft solutions that further our community goals and fear the consequences will include more homelessness on our streets and greenbelts, more seniors in poverty, a deeply diminished state university, more Alaskans without health care, more Alaskans out of work, and the risk of economic recession. With the Permanent Fund dividend and capital budget still unresolved, hope remains that a deal can restore some vital operating funds.
We should strive to create an Alaska where we all benefit. Thousands of Alaskans fortify that belief as donors, partners and volunteers to nonprofits across our state. Now more than ever, we can show our fellow Alaskans the kind of Alaska we want to live in together.
Published July 8, 2019, by Michele Brown
For decades, United Way of Anchorage has strived to ensure the health, education and financial stability of every person in our community. Alaskans stand by our friends and neighbors in providing a lifting hand during times of need. Now it’s up to the Alaska Legislature. They can do great good and halt great harm if they simply confirm what they’ve already done, with the emphasis of 45 votes. Here’s why they should override the governor’s vetoes of the operating budget:
You can buy prevention by the ounce
Prevention of homelessness – or swift restoration to housing – is what more than 50 organizations have helped to do with state funding in the prevention of homelessness or restoration to housing. Lawmakers understood this when they crafted a budget that included almost $10.6 million more than the governor vetoed. The people in these nonprofits deliver services with greater economy and efficiency than the state can. This is privatization that works.
Lawmakers refused to pull the rug out both from Alaskans who need help and the Alaskans who do yeoman’s work to help them.
Senior benefits provide another example. Lawmakers budgeted $20 million. Again, they understood the wisdom of what the modest monthly stipend can mean for seniors on fixed incomes. This is money up front that may well save greater public costs on the local, state and federal levels – and shows a measure of care for our older residents.
Partnerships work when partners stay the course
The State of Alaska, in addition to its constitutional role, has been a vital partner with non-profits, the private sector, and federal and local governments in making Alaska a better place to live. Here at United Way of Anchorage, we’re grateful to count our partners by the dozens and have long proudly counted the State of Alaska as one of them, both in initiatives we’ve undertaken and to support state-led work in long-range change.
That makes these vetoes even more disappointing.
Lawmakers understood that it makes no sense to cut millions from housing and homelessness work just when the Municipality of Anchorage is beginning its ambitious Anchored Home initiative, just when United Way of Anchorage is launching a pilot program to get the hardest to house off the street, just when the city’s painstaking and controversial work to clean up homeless camps promises lasting progress, just as so many groups and individuals have come together in collaboration on a scale the city has never seen. This is no time to bail out.
When shelters drastically cut back, when Alaska 2-1-1 (the helpline for health and social services) answers a third less calls and has substantially reduced referral options, and when rent assistance is gone, we don’t help our economy or public safety. Instead, with a stroke of a pen, we are increasing campers in the city’s greenbelt and conflicts among citizens.
Public Process is how Alaskans take care of one another
Lawmakers can claim the more thoughtful, conservative budget – one that takes a longer, deeper view of Alaska’s future, that acknowledges we do have choices to make and priorities to set, that relies less on ideology and more on what works. They have shown understanding that draconian cuts don’t stop at the agencies gutted or the people forsaken. The consequences ripple out into all aspects of community health – school attendance, graduation rates, strain on strapped resources, alcohol and drug abuse with all their attendant woes, along with increased police, fire and paramedic calls. The multiplier effect has a reach long and wide enough to touch us all, directly or otherwise.
Most of all, a majority of lawmakers maintained the helping hand – and that’s good for Alaska and fiscally responsible to boot.
To our Alaska lawmakers: we urge you to find the valor to save Alaska. Alaskans will support you. May you have the courage of your convictions, ladies and gentlemen, and stand by your thoughtfully passed budget.