Sunday, April 5, 2015

Budget Cuts Hurt, and it's Time to Share the Pain

With the talk of spring in Alaska comes the talk of the state budget, and this year with money as scarce as snow, the state legislature is cutting with a chainsaw.  When this happens we residents of the state have to face our demons and answer the tough questions like, What do I really care about?  What do we really need?  Which is more important?   One would hope that everything we spend money for in Alaska is important, but sadly somethings are not.  Is it necessary for us to have what is virtually a second capitol building in Anchorage?  Nope, not even if we had plenty of money.  Is public safety and education critical?  Yup, no matter how broke the state is.  Does the state need to be making half million dollar loans to build a Wasilla Petco?  Hard for me to swallow.  
End of day at Hooper Bay School

     Regardless of your political leaning or personal philosophy, years like this put us all on the hot seat for what we value in state spending.  Are we ready to pay some income tax in order to keep the troopers on duty, the ferries running,  and the lights on in the schools.  Are we ready to accept longer lines at DMV and longer waits for snow to be removed from highways?  Are we willing to give up on public funding for Public radio and state parks or will we cut the pay of public employees instead? The case is clear  we have to give up something, everyone does.  We'll know we've got it right if we are all smarting a little bit, if we all lost a piece of the pie and had to settle for a slice a bread.  
    With a career in education, it is easy for me to want to protect the school budgets, but I know they too will suffer, it's just a matter of how much.  Over the last ten to fifteen years, the teachers have taken a lot of hits in the pocket book and I'd hate to see them take another.  Teachers that retire today do so with very little retirement cushion to sit on, and Alaskan salaries no longer exceed the other states.  That means we can't keep and recruit the best teachers anymore.  If you haven't read Jake Todd's piece in the Alaska Dispatch, you need to.  He paints a gloomy picture, and this is a problem that won't fix itself.  We've been robbing Peter to pay Paul for long enough and it's time Paul faced the music.  

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