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Proposed budget would cut programs funded by Anchorage’s alcohol tax, but the Assembly is ready to make amendments

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 8:34 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson’s proposed budget is calling for changes to the alcoholic beverages retail sales tax program, including a more than $1.2 million cut from the child abuse, sexual assault, and domestic violence section.

The budget proposes to cut early education grants in half, as well as $250,000 for funds directed to Victims for Justice, Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis, and other programs that focus on victims’ services. His office says it’s to focus the funds on the high-priority issue of homelessness in Anchorage, while still funding other priorities of that tax revenue program.

These topics will be up for discussion at Tuesday night’s Anchorage Assembly meeting, but not before a working session last Friday where assembly Member John Weddleton proposed that Victims for Justice and AWAIC will both get $125,000 in the proposed budget.

“We gave $125,000 to Victims for Justice and a similar amount to AWAIC and in that case we had a separate line item we added on in first quarter budget amendments, and this takes that amount and just plugs it into the continuation dollars that is in the mayor’s budget,” Weddleton said.

Weddleton’s amendment proposes that $250,000 of the existing $1.75 million in proposed evidence-based grants funding be dedicated to the two organizations.

Also on Friday, assembly members Forrest Dunbar and Austin Quinn-Davidson proposed an amendment that would give $125,000 each to Victims for Justice and AWAIC through a one-time amendment.

“This is John’s amendment, perhaps we can find a way to merge them,” Dunbar said. “I think, actually even looking at this myself, I think it probably makes more sense as I think Ms. Quinn-Davidson said to use the rollover one-time fund for this because these two organizations have that really unique (Victims of Crimes Act) issue.”

Weddleton also suggested either pairing the amendments or moving the one proposed by Dunbar and Quinn-Davidson first.

Victoria Shanklin, executive director for Victims for Justice, said the Victims of Crimes Act fund has dwindled over the past few years due to fewer prosecutions and diverted funds.

This source of money is one of the few resources out there that can go to other crime victims, due to a lot of funds dedicated to just domestic violence and sexual assault.

“So the important thing with the alcohol tax too that might need to be raised is that this funding is to support both work that is being done that needs to continue, in addition to what we’ve been doing, but it’s also there to do prevention,” Shanklin said.

Shanklin said in the last couple years, their client caseload has risen by about 25% and staff are helping more than 300 local families a year.

The assembly will be meeting to discuss parts of the budget, including the alcohol tax program, Tuesday night starting at 5 p.m. in the Loussac Library.

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