18K state employees alerted to possible government shutdown
Don’t show up to work on July 1 if lawmakers haven’t passed a budget– those were the instructions sent out Tuesday to thousands of state employees.
The Department of Administration is preparing to send out 18,000 layoff notices, known as pink slips, Thursday, according to a Grace Jang, a spokesperson for Governor Bill Walker.
Jang says the department wanted to give state employees a “heads up” Tuesday to check their mailboxes for the notifications later this week.
Tuesday’s email to state workers reads, “Because we do not have a state budget, we must let you know of a possible government shutdown on July 1, 2017.”
If lawmakers don’t pass a budget before then, the letter says permanent and probationary employees, “will be placed on layoff status from your current position effective July 1, 2017.”
It doesn’t look appear the legislature will have passed a budget before Thursday to preempt the pink slips, as lawmakers did last year.
“We don’t want to put people in Alaska in that kind of uncertainty, but this is what it looks like when you have a massive change in how we do things in Alaska,” Senate President Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks) said Tuesday. “We can’t let artificial deadlines dictate whether we do the right or the wrong thing.”
The Democrat-led House Majority is holding out for taxes on the oil industry and Alaskans as part of a budget deal, which the Senate opposes.
“All of these issues are intertwined,” House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham) said in an interview Tuesday.
Edgmon says his caucus has suggested passing a partial budget to avoid a shutdown.
“That suggestion was not received well, I’m not sure why, but we did put it forward and I can tell you that our caucus is very concerned about any impending government shutdown– we don’t think it should be necessary,” said Edgmon.
But according to Jang, lawmakers must pass a fully funded budget by July 1.
“If the legislature has not passed a fully-funded budget, government shuts down, with the exception of programs and employees that protect and preserve the life, health and safety of Alaskans,” Jang said in an email Tuesday.
Republican or Democrat, lawmakers want to avoid a shutdown but they can’t seem to find a way forward. In the meantime, Alaskans are left trying to prepare for a worst-case scenario.
“I am just really disturbed by the way they’re doing it,” said Representative Tammie Wilson (R-North Pole), a member of the House Finance Committee. “You have a whole lot of people who are now looking at, you know, what are we going to do for health insurance, for all those types of things that come July 1 will not exist.”
So far, Alaska has never had a government shutdown, though pink slips have been sent out in the past. The Department of Administration says it will be posting more information about a possible shutdown on its website, starting Thursday.
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