“Ain’t no power like the power of the people ‘cuz the power of the people won’t stop,” went the chant of protest outside Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office on Wednesday afternoon. The protesters were members of the AFL-CIO, a labor union that represents many state employees. The AFL-CIO left the capitol singing union songs.
The reason for the protest? Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget delivered on his promise to cut $1.6 billion from the operating budget, and that includes a reduction of 625 full-time jobs in the state government. Office of Management and Budget Director Donna Arduin said the number of proposed job cuts totals more than 700 when temporary positions are considered, too.
Chris Dimond, a union affiliate who participated said, “It’s important the governor and administration know that these proposed cuts look to be pretty devastating to the state and we as labor aren’t going to stand by.”
It’s unclear whether or not the proposed job cuts include vacant positions, or ones that would be left vacant by way of retirement or other forms of attrition. The Office of Management and Budget did not immediately return a call by the Empire.
Some departments would see heavier cuts than others.
The Department of Health and Social Services, according to the proposed budget, would see 365 permanent jobs and 13 non-permanent jobs cut.
But, not every department would see a cut. For example, the Office of the Governor would see a total increase of 18 full-time jobs.
Although the budget cuts are massive, Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau was not surprised.
“The governor’s doing exactly what he said he would do,” Hannan said. “I think there were many different people who didn’t truly fathom what those cuts mean.”
Hannan noted the legislature will get to work on this budget and amendments will be made.
“I trust the legislature will not let the governor’s proposal be the budget we pass,” Hannan said.
Sen. Mia Costello, R-Anchorage said, “I told one of my constituents today, ‘Don’t go putting the For Sale sign in your yard just yet.’ People are reacting very strongly to the budget.”
“I think we all expected that,” she added.
Rep. Andi Story of Juneau encouraged constituents to make their voices heard.
“I think it’s real important that people weigh in on the budget,” Story, a Democrat, said. “This is their opportunity to weigh in on the budget. I would urge everyone to call in, call the governor’s office. Staff will take messages and make sure legislators and the governor are reading them.”
• Contact reporter Kevin Baird at 523-2588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.