What others say: Cuts starting to hurt

  • Wednesday, September 21, 2016 5:05pm
  • Opinion

The Ketchikan Regional Youth Facility closed this week, an event that brought lay-off notices to 15 employees and the end of a local secure detention for youth in southern Southeast Alaska.

On Thursday, Alaska’s Department of Corrections announced that it’s raising — by 46 percent — how much it charges the municipality of Anchorage to house prisoners.

Also Thursday, University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen outline a proposed budget that included yet another tuition increase, this time a hike of 10 percent, in addition to reductions to a number of academic and athletic programs.

Other changes in recent months have included closure of courts and court clerk offices on Friday afternoons, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game expanding its test fishery program to bring in revenue for fishery management. Alaska’s Child Support Division plans to close its field offices in Wasilla and Juneau.

One year ago, the Alaska Department of Transportation notified the public that its “response frequency” for winter road maintenance would be reduced.

Signs of the impacts that Alaska’s woeful budget situation are having on services and jobs are appearing more frequently. What started as mild cuts are slicing deeper now, closer to the core. It’s starting to hurt.

Good, some Alaskans say. State government must be reduced to a size that can be sustained by existing and expected revenues.

Yes, it should.

And now we’re getting the picture of what that looks like in real world Alaska. With oil revenues likely to remain low for some time, the picture grows more stark by the moment.

Some say state budget cuts should happen much faster and go far deeper.

There are benefits to taking bitter medicine quickly if doing so speeds the healing, and we’re not sure that would be the case here. Better to reach a “right-sized” government with the least negative economic and human impacts possible rather than force immediate, deep and unmeasured changes rife with major effects and unforeseen consequences.

If our state leaders remain at impasse and overall economic circumstances don’t change, Alaska is headed toward a time when such large cuts to state government are unavoidable.

We hope that’s not the case. But we’ve definitely started down the budget-cutting road and there are no exits in sight.

Hang on if you can. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

— Ketchikan Daily News,

Sept. 17