Mayor Berkowitz voices disapproval of Dunleavy's vetoes

Published: Jun. 29, 2019 at 6:51 PM AKDT
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Just one day after Governor Mike Dunleavy's announcement of line-item vetoes that would cut $444 million from the state's operating budget, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz is voicing his disapproval.

The mayor made comments outside of city hall, accompanied by representatives from several organizations which would lose funding if the cuts come to pass.

"We want to make sure the public is aware of the consequences of those vetoes," he said, "It will result in huge additional costs- not just fiscal."

With Berkowitz were speakers from Catholic Social Service, Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness, The Rural Alaska Community Action Program, Covenant House and Anchorage Assembly member Meg Zaletel.

Patrick Anderson, the executive director of RurAL Cap, pointed out that 20% of the program's statewide budget on the chopping block. That equates to the loss of 800 positions for children in head start programs.

According to Lisa Aquino, with Catholic Social Services, the cuts to her group's budget will result in a 48% increase in homelessness in Anchorage.

"You're going to see it immediately," she said.

Berkowitz says the impacts will not be limited to Anchorage's homeless population alone. While the Legislature approved payments for 100% of municipal governments' school construction bonds, the governor will veto 50 percent of that amount. In Anchorage, Berkowitz says that translates to property tax increases of about $60 per $100,000 of assessed property value.

"Someone who owns a 350-thousand dollar house will see an increase of approximately 210 dollars to cover this debt," He said. "Someone who owns a shopping mall will see an increase of hundreds of thousands of dollars, so this has a consequence for business owners across the municipality as well."

The mayor also commented on cuts of 41% to the University of Alaska's state funding. He says the decision to make those cuts would signal a lack of investment in young Alaskans while creating a ripple effect throughout Alaska's economy as staff lay-offs would likely translate to a loss of commerce.

"If we don't educate our own young people they will leave the state," Berkowitz said, "If they leave the state, we will lose the ability to be in charge of our own destiny. We are limiting the scope of our future."