Several hundred people interested in the future of Alaska and the current budget deficit gathered for a free lunch at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska on the last Friday of March to hear about Plan4Alaska. “We’ve worked for sixty years with different communities around the state to improve their quality of life in many different ways, but we are worried that if the legislature doesn’t take action this year that we could be seeing a future that is not very bright and all of the things that we have worked so hard to build that make our communities great places to live could be undone,” said Diane Kaplan, president and CEO of the Rasmuson Foundation. The group began an educational campaign a year ago, when the scope of the fiscal crisis was becoming clear, to reach more Alaskans with information. Kaplan said more Alaskans are aware that there is a problem, but clear ideas about solutions remain elusive. “The discussion on the table today is to really thinking hard about what we are willing to give up, what we’re willing to pay for and what our future looks like. Every Alaskan should be involved in this discussion because whatever decision is made is going to affect all of us,” Kaplan said in an interview.
To help that happen Plan4Alaska has created an interactive website, “You can take the budget challenge. You enter your zip code and you can set the price of oil and look at every department of state government and decide what you want to cut and what you want to keep and look at all the revenue sources that are on the table and see if you can solve the budget situation to get rid of the deficit. It gives you an appreciation of what our elected officials are going through and if you solve it, you get a congratulations you win and your solution is forward directly to your legislator so they’ll know how you feel,” she said.
Also present at the event were State Senator Peter Micciche and Borough Mayor Mike Navarre to answer questions and explain how potential solutions may be enacted, “Several groups are going around the state getting the word out and gathering survey information and what I like about what they are saying is the fact that they are putting up real numbers and spreading awareness about the problem we have in the State of Alaska. It’s a 4.1 billion dollar budget deficit. We can’t afford this current government but we have to figure how we are going to pay the bills and that’s through re-purposing our existing financial assets and deciding which services are most important and how they want to pay for them,” said Micciche. Anyone may take the budget challenge by going to www.plan4Alaska.com and entering their zip code.