Nonprofit says it won't be able to help everyone if the budget continues to shrink
One of the state's biggest donors is wading into the political arena. The Rasmuson Foundation's board of directors, as well as its chairman, Ed Rasmuson, wrote opinion pieces against Gov. Mike Dunleavy's proposed budget.
"Gov. Mike Dunleavy is proposing deep cuts in services to close a $1.6 billion budget gap. We have been talking with nonprofits across Alaska about how the cuts will impact their work and the Alaskans they serve. We are deeply concerned," Ed Rasmuson wrote in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
The board listed its massive donations to groups, and people, from across the state in its op-ed and also said a state budget deficit can't be overcome by "innovative partnerships and philanthropy" from private partnerships and groups like the Rasmuson Foundation.
"The $30 million the Rasmuson Foundation awards annually is what it costs to operate one tiny piece of the state budget — the Department of Law's Criminal Division, for one year," the board wrote. "More broadly, the total annual philanthropic investment in Alaska of $135 million represents just 8.4 percent of Gov. Mike Dunleavy's proposed budget cut — the equivalent of operating the Pioneer Homes and paying for statewide technology services for a year," the board continued.
The governor's spokesperson, Matt Shuckerow, said a discussion over the budget is good and that these kind of talks should have started years ago. He said the governor's priorities continue to be a full PFD and cutting government spending, saying we're in a "fiscal crisis."
"Generally speaking the governor's view is that Alaskans are probably better off spending their dollars than the government is," Shuckerow said. "Sometimes the government can be wasteful, it can be excessive, maybe not looking for reform, so this is a big conversation. We're glad Alaskans are engaged."
Board member Mike Navarre said if some of the cuts go through there will be a greater dependence on non-profits and that even that money won't be enough.
"When you see cuts to government services what you see is more pressure and more demand on non-profits and simply the inability to step up to that level when you're talking about a billion or a billion and a half dollars," Navarre said.
Shuckerow said the state has been spending at unsustainable levels for years which requires everyone to take a closer look at the budget.
"At the end of the day, there are big discussions that have been put off for many, many years," Shuckerow said. "And I will say that what was generated in this legislative session was a very big input from Alaskans and a very big involvement that we're happy to see."
The Alaska Legislature is close to finalizing an operating budget that rejects most of the cuts proposed by the governor. The budget would make roughly $200 million in reductions from the budget passed in 2018.
The governor still can use his line-item veto power to reduce funding items approved by the Legislature.
A three-quarters vote of both the Senate and the House of Representatives would then be required to override any of the line-items vetoed by the governor.