Budget cuts hit home

  • Saturday, November 7, 2015 4:45pm
  • Opinion

This is what budget cuts look like.

Earlier this week, we heard a fair amount of grumbling about road conditions following the season’s first snowfall. According to a report from the Alaska Journal of Commerce, the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities got an earful from Fairbanks-area motorists after an early season snowfall there.

While not all the road maintenance in question is performed by state crews, and there’s always someone grumbling about snow removal — complaining about the weather and the response to it is one of our favorite pastimes — it does drive home the point, in a very tangible way, that the state of Alaska is in a budget crunch.

It’s worth noting that no matter what the state’s budget situation is, road conditions this past week were going to be slick. Heavy, wet snow followed by freeze-thaw temperatures topped off with some rain always makes for treacherous driving conditions. On top of that, many drivers wait until after the first snowfall to change over to their winter tires — as evidenced by the lines at local tire shops Wednesday and Thursday morning. Hopefully, everyone has now remembered how to drive in winter conditions, and their vehicles are now properly equipped for the next winter storm.

However, it’s also worth noting that DOT has eliminated positions and cut overtime for winter road crews. That means a slower response to clear roads, and it means crews won’t be available 24/7. DOT has placed a priority on the most used thoroughfares, but still may take up to 24 hours to get those roads clear.

Alaskans have high expectations for services provided, but there is a disconnect as to how those services are paid for. In his remarks to the Kenai Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Borough Mayor Mike Navarre pointed out that a large portion of the state budget goes toward education and Medicaid — both funded largely by formulas. That leaves a much smaller portion of the state budget where cuts can be made. As Navarre noted, everyone running for office says they’re going to cut government spending, but it’s much easier said than done.

And when cuts are made, there will be grumbling about the impacts, too.

Looking ahead to the coming winter, barring a very mild season, peninsula drivers should make adjustments. On snowy mornings, if there’s somewhere you absolutely have to be, leave early. Otherwise, stay off the roads to give crews time and space to work. The school district may have to have more delayed starts this year. In fact, the district administration announced this week that if parents or guardians deem road conditions unsafe and opt to keep their kids at home, it will be considered an excused absence.

There are bound to be more impacts as the effects of budget cuts trickle down. Some, we may hardly notice, but others — like road maintenance — will affect everyone. Alaskans have always been pretty good at making do, and in the coming months, we’ll be making do a lot more.

More in Opinion

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink promotes getting immunized with the flu shot this winter. (Photo courtesy Alaska Department of Health and Social Services)
Immunize when you winterize

An annual flu shot plus the COVID-19 vaccine protects Alaskans and our health care system, too.

(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Dunleavy’s first act as governor was unconstitutional

That’s according to a ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge John Sedwick.

This Aug. 3, 2021, photo shows Juneau International Airport.  The Federal Aviation Administration shared recommendations on Thursday for improving aviation safety in the state. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: How the FAA will improve the margin of aviation safety in Alaska

Alaska depends on aviation more than any other state…

Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Perspective of an educator in a ‘high-risk’ group, part 2

During some of the darkest days of my time in ICU, it was obvious where we all live is a special place.

Lawmakers havereturned to the Alaska State Capitol for a fourth special session. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Revenues should be determined before more PFD spending

The governor believes the dividend drives the entire calculation. Sadly, he has it backwards

Ronnie Leach. (Photo provided)
Point of View: For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, #weareresilient

At the onset of COVID-19, we expanded our services in a way to ensure COVID-19 consciousness.

Rep. Don Young talks during a June 2021 interview with the Empire. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion:Where’s Don Young when America needs him?

Once upon a time, avoiding political controversy was completely out of character for Young.

Peter Zuyus
Voices of the Peninsula: Seniors appreciate vaccination efforts

To those who have worked to encourage vaccination we say: Be proud, you are, in fact, saving lives.

Jackson Blackwell (courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: Carbon dividends are the bipartisan climate solution

By levying a gradually increasing price on carbon, U.S. emissions will be slashed by 50% in 15 years.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Dunleavy: Facts Matter

Political opportunists care more about spreading political untruths than accepting the facts.

Steve Hughes. (Photo provided)
Voices of the Peninsula: We are all victims of COVID-19

It is disturbing to hear, as a triage nurse, the many reasons cited for not getting a vaccine that are based on misinformation.

teaser
Opinion: LGBTQ+ Alaskans deserve respect and dignity

Like every state that lacks equality, we need federal protection.