Before Releasing Budget Details, Walker Warns Of Layoffs

Gov. Bill Walker plans to release the details of his revised operating budget on Thursday.

Budget director Pat Pitney previewed some of the cuts before the Senate Finance Committee on Wednesday.

“The operating budget you have here will be smaller by over $100 million,” said Pitney.

Pitney said the cuts are significant, with a target of a 9 percent reduction in total state spending across the operating and capital budgets over the previous year. The new operating budget includes a reorganization of the Department of Administration, reductions to the community jails program, changes to the senior benefits payment program, and cuts to grant programs.

“The public discussion just based on these reductions are going to be loud,” says Pitney. “This will not be viewed as low hanging fruit.”

To prepare state workers for the release, the governor sent an e-mail across agencies acknowledging that the next few months will “undoubtedly be a time of uncertainty and stress.” Walker wrote that the goal was to “reduce the footprint of State government to a sustainable level,” and that staff reductions were necessary as a result.

A follow-up e-mail from the head of a public employees union, the Alaska Supervisory Bargaining Unit, specified that over 300 positions are being considered for cuts. Of those, 270 are full-time, and only half are currently filled. The letter also emphasized that final layoff numbers will not be known until April, when the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn.

The state government employs 24,000 workers across Alaska, according to the Legislative Finance Division.