On July 1st the Alaska State Government will shut its doors if the Alaska Legislature does not reach a compromise on how to close the state’s budget gap. Although both the Governor and House have offered real plans, the Senate has sat on its hands and rejected all attempts to come up with new revenue sources. With no budget agreed to by this past Friday, Governor Walker was forced to open a second special session. With less than two weeks left, it’s time for the Senate and Senate President Pete Kelly, who leads the Senate Majority, to step up, do their job and pass a budget. Failure to do so would have a resounding impact on all sectors of the Alaskan economy and way of life.
Tell Senator Kelly to find a compromise and avoid a shutdown
As our friends and family who work in the state begin to receive their pink slips, many Alaskans are wondering what a shutdown would mean for the Tongass and Southeast. The state plays a central role in protecting our environment, maintaining our economy, and supporting our way of life. A shutdown would close some of our most important state services.
As boats are prepped for the start of a new fishing season, they may have to keep their nets and lines onboard. State workers monitor salmon stocks and the information they gather informs how each fishery is managed. The state manages fisheries, opening and closing areas based on the current run of fish. Without this data, fisheries would simply close, causing many to worry about the impact on their season and income. The height of the salmon season stretches from June to September and is a central pillar of the billion-dollar fishing industry, and the economy of Southeast. The short salmon season means that boats must be on the water during this time or risk losing out on a large portion of the year's catch.
For those who fish and hunt for subsistence or recreation, permits would not be able to be issued, compromising the food security of many communities. Tourism too would take a hit as each year thousands come to Alaska to fish for salmon, eat at our restaurants, and shop in our stores. If they are unable to get the required licenses and head out onto the water, this important revenue stream too will be reduced.
ADEC has been underfunded for years and would be further impacted by a government shutdown. While some departments such as the Department of Spill Prevention would remain open, their programs dealing with air and wastewater permitting would be shut down. ADEC, our water quality experts, would also be further delayed in completing a long-overdue process establishing a designation process for Tier 3 Waters – something SEACC has been critical of ADEC for not having done already.
In the case of a shutdown, state parks would remain open but would be void of rangers and support staff that do everything from help visitors find their way through the park to emptying the public toilets. Cabin reservations for state-run backcountry cabins could also be taken offline.
Here the connection between human health and toxins in the environment are evaluated and understood. They develop intervention strategies to reduce or eliminate chemical exposures of human health concern, foster two-way communication in order to address community concerns about contaminants and provide information about the health risks associated with hazardous substances. Under a shut down these services would not be accessible.
Both travel and tourism could be sunk as ferries come to a halt throughout Southeast Alaska, preventing people from reaching needed medical attention and visiting friends and family. SEACC has long supported our ferry system, which is critical for our way of life as it connects our island-bound communities.
Clapping your hands and saying ‘I believe in ferries’ won’t keep the ferries running but calling Senator Kelly TODAY just might.
We have faith that our state leaders can work together to find a path forward to close the budget gap and keep the State of Alaska in business, but they need to act NOW. Southeast Alaskans, in particular, need strong state leadership to ensure we retain critical services and have a vibrant summer season full of fish, ferries, and clean water.