'We are very anxious at this point' — Alaskans are bracing for the governor's proposed budget

Published: Feb. 12, 2019 at 4:06 PM AKST
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Gov. Mike Dunleavy will reveal his first budget at 10:30 Wednesday morning, and already, many are bracing for its impacts as rumors swirl about widespread cuts and elimination of services.

Dunleavy's budget is expected to contain $1.6 billion in cuts.

People in the education sector, traditionally been one of the larger parts of the budget, say there isn't room for more cutting.

"People are making real decisions about whether they should stay in Alaska and what the future of Alaska is," said Tim Parker, president of NEA-Alaska. "And unfortunately a large proposed budget cut would have people thinking 'maybe this isn't the place for me.'"

Parker says he's concerned class sizes could balloon and rural schools might be forced to close.

"I would say that we are very anxious at this point in time as to what might be coming in the future for Alaska schools," Parker said.

According to Parker, there are 500 schools in the state with about 150,000 students and 8,000 teachers.

Meanwhile, the Association of Village Council Presidents says there already isn't enough money for Village Public Safety Officers, and a shrinking budget could leave many communities without law enforcement.

"Our region already has expressed a need for more public safety. We only have eight VPSOs right now, and we have 48 villages," AVCP Communications Director Azara Mohammadi said in an interview from Bethel. "So that's a lot of communities that are going without a public safety presence of any kind and, you know, feeling safe is a basic human need."

Mohammadi says overtime has to be limited and some positions remain unfilled. She says some buildings that VPOs work in are unsafe and in major need of repairs.

"People have a right to feel safe in their homes," Mohammadi said.

In an

, Gov. Dunleavy said state spending can't continue as it has for the past few years.

"This budget has to be fixed. Everyone knows that. Everyone knows that we are running out of savings," Dunleavy said.

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