Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget team on Friday spent its second day defending a series of spending cuts, prompting a Kenai Peninsula state senator to question how the administration will reconcile its crime bills with proposed reductions.

During the morning’s Senate Finance Committee hearing, Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, challenged the budget team’s plan to close two wings of the Wildwood Correctional Center.

The proposal would save the state $6 million and cost 46 full-time positions. Dunleavy is also proposing a series of crime bills, including SB32 which strengthens sentencing guide lines and comes with a price tag of more than $40 million.

He said it clashes with pending crime bills that call for stronger sentencing laws.

“The people in my district are very tired of having their homes broken into, having their vehicles stolen, having their chainsaws lifted out of their sheds on a repeated basis, and we’re going to change the laws to deal with that,” he said.

“Yet we are cutting short the very departments that we are charging with turning around crime in this state, and we’re shutting down the lowest cost-per-unit facility in order to do that and that makes no sense to anyone other than someone  looking to simply plug some numbers into in this budget. I support the budget reductions. This doesn’t make sense.”

Sylvan Robb, a division director with the Office of Management and Budget, addressed the Senate panel with the governor’s proposal for the Department of Corrections.

“It’s hard for us to achieve if save full savings if we can’t completely close a facility and reduce the overhead,” she said. “The way with the way the Wildwood facility is structured being in three separate buildings allows us to close building so that we can realize that saving from the reduction in overhead.”

Other proposed Department of Corrections changes Robb identified include:

  • Eliminating the Professional Conduct Unit, which would save $1.2 million. Robb called it a duplication of services.
  • Sending 500 inmates out of state to save $12.8 million. Robb said Lower 48 institutions can provide care at $95 per inmate per day; Alaska facilities cost $169 per per inmate, per day. Most inmates would have at least 10 years remaining on their sentences. She added more than 300 inmates have at least 25 years to serve.
  • Reduce department travel by 50 percent.

But most pushback came at the plan to shutter portions of Wildwood. Micciche put faces on those at Wildwood who stand to lose their jobs under this plan.

“Instead of informing our hockey coaches, church elders and community leaders who are the professionals at Wildwood that they are losing their jobs, and should start planning to move to take another position, I guess I should say they shouldn’t start planning their garage sales yet,” he said.

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