JUNEAU -- As state employees and others await the release of Gov. Bill Walker's budget Thursday, he's warning the employees the proposal will call for reductions in both state services and the public employees providing those services.
Walker said Wednesday his budget proposal for fiscal year 2016, beginning July 1, "includes staff reductions and will initiate a challenging, but necessary, discussion among Alaskans."
His comments were made in an email to state employees that went out Wednesday, a day before the budget announcement which is expected to provide more specifics. Walker had previously provided to the Legislature a budget proposal developed by former Gov. Sean Parnell's administration but said that a worsening budget situation required more significant cuts.
He has asked departments to propose cuts of 5 to 8 percent but has not said exactly how big cuts will be.
Unions are bracing for job losses, said Jim Duncan of the Alaska State Employees Association.
He said they'd been told that 300 positions were going to be cut, but some are not filled now.
"It's not clear at this time, and probably won't be clear until April or May, the number of people who will be laid off," he said.
The ASEA has about 9,000 members working for the state.
Given employee turnover, layoffs could be even fewer, depending on individual departments and jobs. In addition, union collective bargaining agreements provide for layoffs to be done by seniority and can include "bumping" rights.
Even so, the final number of job cuts will not be decided by Walker's proposal, he said, but by the full budget process.
"What the governor proposes may very well change," he said.
Walker spokesperson Grace Jang said legislators were getting budget information Wednesday evening, in advance of it being made public Thursday afternoon.
Here's Walker's email:
Dear State Employees,On Thursday, February 5th, I will release the details of my FY2016 budget proposal. As you are likely aware, the current fiscal climate necessitates that we take swift action to trim spending and reduce the footprint of State government to a sustainable level. As part of that process, it is my obligation to provide the Legislature and the public with the detail needed to assess the impact of the budget proposal on the public, State services, the public employees providing those services, and the local and regional economies that will be affected by declining State spending.My FY2016 budget proposal includes staff reductions and will initiate a challenging, but necessary, discussion among Alaskans. I have asked the Commissioners to begin the process of communicating details of the budget proposal to their personnel and to the public in order for Alaskans to understand the potential impact of the budget proposal. For Alaskas public employees, the next few months will undoubtedly be a time of uncertainty and stress while the budget and addressing Alaskas fiscal situation are under discussion. If you are concerned about the potential impact of the staff reductions, I encourage you to consult the personnel resources that are available to you in your agency or from the Department of Administrations Division of Personnel and Labor Relations at http://doa.alaska.gov/dop/home.html.The budget challenge that we currently face is significant, but I have confidence that Alaska and Alaskas public sector will emerge stronger as a result. Thank you for your continued service to Alaska and Alaskans.Sincerely,Bill WalkerGovernor