Alaska elected officials take action as government shutdown looms

Alaska elected officials take action as government shutdown looms
Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 7:00 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The U.S. is headed toward a government shutdown when the clock strikes 12:01 a.m. on Sunday if funding legislation isn’t passed this weekend by Congress and signed into law by the president.

But elected officials here in Alaska say they already have plans in the works to minimize the impacts of a potential shutdown.

Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan is taking action for the men and women who keep the country safe. The senator and more than a dozen of his colleagues have introduced a piece of legislation called the Pay Our Military Act of 2023, which would ensure America’s service members and contractors are paid in the event of a government shutdown.

During a 2019 shutdown, Sullivan noted all branches of the military except the U.S. Coast Guard were paid, which the senator deemed “an outrage.”

“My bill today that I tried to get passed on the Senate floor covers the entire military,” Sullivan said. “Our military members are still going to be deployed all over the world. They’re gonna be on ships, on submarines, flying in the skies, and they’re not going to get paid? That’s outrageous.”

One of the co-sponsors of the legislation is Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who said in a statement Tuesday that ensuring the military pay in a shutdown is a “non-negotiable” for her.

“Our Armed Forces should not have to deal with political disruptions interfering with their paycheck or ability to engage their mission of keeping Americans safe,” Sullivan said.

According to a 2022 Department of Defense report, there were more than 20,000 active military personnel stationed in Alaska last September.

Sullivan said a similar bill passed prior to the 2013 government shutdown, but this one is facing some resistance.

“So yeah, on that kind of stuff, I was enormously frustrated and I will keep trying to bring my bill to the floor and get it passed the way it was passed unanimously in 2013 to make sure our military members get paid because they’re still going to have to defend our country,” Sullivan said. “I certainly hope my democratic colleagues don’t block it again when I try to bring it to the floor later in the week.”

The State of Alaska is also prepared to take action.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy said the state is committed to continuing essential government services funded by the federal government and administered by the state, such as Medicaid and air traffic control. Alaska would seek reimbursement following a shutdown, according to a release from the governor’s office.

“The longest previous federal shutdown was 34 days. The State of Alaska is prepared to continue state-administered federally funded programs for that length of time. If a federal government shutdown were to continue beyond that timeframe, the State will reevaluate the situation if necessary, and prioritize programs that most directly impact the life, health, and safety of Alaskans,” the release stated.

The governor said that the approximately 4,700 state executive branch positions at least partially federally funded would see no disruption in their pay and continue to report to work.

Dunleavy said a small number of federal employees work within state departments.

The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development has developed a fact sheet specifically to address unemployment insurance questions associated with the potential government furlough for federal employees.

However, in the event of a shutdown, if Congress provides retroactive payment of wages, workers who receive unemployment insurance must repay them.