Fresh off his trip to Washington D.C. for the National Governors Association winter meeting, Governor Sean Parnell is expressing pessimism about the looming federal fiscal crisis due to automatic budget cuts set to take effect Friday.
"We've got the president and Congress blaming each other, no trust between the parties, and they apparently have no way to stop careening from crisis to crisis,” Parnell. “Washington is not only broken, but it looks like the federal government is broke."
Parnell says the federal government is heading down a road towards a spring shutdown if these issues aren't solved by the nation's leaders. Closer to home, hundreds of civilian contractor jobs in Alaska could be at stake, but no one yet knows the extent of the threat from the sequestration process -- only that many of its layoffs will take a month to become apparent.
"Nobody can tell you what is going to happen on April 1,” Parnell said, "let alone how the sequester reductions will be apportioned by (the federal Office of Management and Budget).”
In Juneau, concern about the upcoming budget cuts crosses party lines.
"Alaska generally would suffer some cuts to the Pentagon budget,” said state Sen. Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage). “Base operation funding would be cut by about 78 million dollars in Alaska -- that's the Army. Air Force funding would be cut by 12 million dollars."
On the civilian front, Ellis says funding for 100 of Alaska's Head Start preschool slots are up in the air, jeopardizing early childhood education. Whether it's social or military affairs that prove to be the largest target, Washington’s budget impasse will certainly be felt across the Last Frontier.
"The federal government is more involved in Alaska's economy and government than in most other states,” Ellis said. “I believe per capita, impact-wise, proportionate impact, that Alaska would feel more of the budget impact in D.C."
Parnell also said Thursday that he won’t expand Medicaid in Alaska for the near future, because he’s concerned the federal government won’t be able to cover its portion of the program's costs.
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