Gov. Bill Walker announced a public safety action plan Monday, as lawmakers debate the issue in a special session in Juneau.

“We cannot cut our way into a safer Alaska,” Walker said, drawing parallels between budget cuts and the increase in state crime.

After four years of steadily rising crime in Alaska, Walker says he tasked his administration with figuring out a public safety plan in August. On Monday, Attorney General, Jahna Lindemuth, unveiled what the administration’s strategy looks like.

Lindemuth emphasized the state should work to make the most of the resources right now, but also launched a call for more.

“We’re paying attention now and there are things in here that are immediate,” said Lindemuth.

Among a wide-ranging set of goals for multiple state departments, the plan calls for:

  • more prosecutors and troopers
  • using existing resources more efficiently to communicate between departments
  • creating an inmate employment program
  • using money from some vacant positions to recruit more law enforcement

 “We believe that our state’s current, unstable budget is a factor in attracting qualified individuals into state service,” said Dept. of Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan.

Monday’s press conference drew criticism from Senate President Pete Kelly, who saw it as a way for Walker to push a tax on Alaskan wages — something the Senate has opposed.

“I believe that the discussion about crime is outside of that discussion. It’s a priority. It needs to be funded regardless of what we come up with as a tax measure or not,” said Kelly. “I thought that was a little inappropriate ‘calling your legislators’, about what? They don’t even have, as I’ve said, we haven’t even seen a white paper on it yet. To my knowledge, there isn’t a bill drafted.”

Some members of House leadership applauded Walker for drawing the budgetary connection.

“We’ve cut $3.9 million in the criminal division over the last three years. We’ve lost 42 positions in the Department of Law,” said Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, echoing Walker’s message.

“The point I might want to make is we can’t really cut ourselves to safety in the State of Alaska,” Spohnholz said.

While lawmakers and the governor seem to agree on the goal, but there are still many details to work out about how to get there.

According to Lindemuth, Monday’s plan is still a work in progress, and elements may be added or eliminated. Lindemuth also says there isn’t a timeline by which the administration aims to complete the plan.

Walker said he doesn’t know yet how much money he will request for public safety in next year’s budget or whether it will be more than in this past year’s budget.

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