This weekend in Fairbanks, Gov. Bill Walker and many of the state’s brightest minds have gathered to discuss what Alaska should look like in the next 10-20 years. Think of it as the drafting of a mission statement for Alaska.
While that takes place in Fairbanks, there’s not much of anything happening in Anchorage. The Legislature’s conference committee, which is supposed to be working on a deal to avert a government shutdown, decided to take the weekend off. It won’t meet again until Monday.
Without a deal, on July 2, more than 10,000 people will be laid off. So many people will receive pink slips that the state’s unemployment rate will top 9 percent — and this in summer, when unemployment is less than half that in many places.
While lawmakers debate their deal, we suggest they take a step in solidarity with the state’s employees. On the front page of today’s issue, state reporter Katie Moritz outlines the top 10 highest-paid workers in the Alaska House and the Alaska Senate. If we’re talking about significant budget cuts, we suggest lawmakers start looking around their desks.
According to documents from the Legislative Affairs Agency, the Legislature’s highest-paid employee makes more than $134,000 per year before taxes. That’s just about as much as former Gov. Sean Parnell was making.
Many more of the Legislature’s employees are making more than $100,000 per year if they work through the interim between legislative sessions.
These employees should not be immune to the state’s cost-cutting simply because they are close to where the decisions are made.
Furthermore, we suggest lawmakers take steps to curtail their own spending. Right now, each legislator on business in Anchorage is earning $292 daily in per diem — money intended to cover food and housing.
Foregoing those payments would show Alaskans that legislators are willing to remove their money from where their mouths are.
Neither of these suggestions will balance the state’s budget, but as the crisis fast approaches, nothing should go untouched.
— Juneau Empire,