As pastors serving in Alaska, we call upon the Alaska Legislature and the governor to enact a budget that serves the common good of the people and maintains a safety net for the most vulnerable Alaskans. The morality of the state budget can be evaluated by how it treats the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the children, the elderly, persons with special needs, the stranger, the sick and the prisoner.
Predictions surrounding Alaska’s fiscal health have sounded dire for several years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated an already difficult situation. The governor is required by law to present a plan for 2022 by mid-December. The governor and Legislature are facing difficult choices that involve budget cuts, taxes and other forms of increasing revenue, and utilizing the Alaska Permanent Fund. With this reality in mind, clergy members of AFACT (Anchorage Faith & Action – Congregations Together) and VIA (Valley Interfaith Action) offer some thoughts on Alaska’s fiscal future.
The concerns of our members reflect the concerns of all Alaskans. Parents worry about education and school funding. Families worry about keeping food on the table and roofs over their heads. Many have lost jobs and are concerned about the economic recovery. Amid the pandemic, even churches are concerned about paying bills and maintaining staff. People, isolated in their homes, are frightened for their health and financial welfare. Many in the middle class, who have supported charitable work in the past, are now finding themselves in need of help.
Our congregations believe in common work to achieve the common good. Across denominational, ethnic and socioeconomic membership, we recognize each person’s inherent dignity and the mandate to provide outreach to those in need in our communities. Each action we take as individuals and as congregations must reflect that belief.
The state safety net is more important than it has been in decades. Faced with dwindling income and volunteers, our churches are not in a position to expand the assistance we provide. We are deeply concerned that the Alaska state government will choose to make dangerous cuts to the safety net, which protects the most vulnerable Alaskans.
Our faith shapes our lives as individuals and as church communities. Throughout scripture, we are commanded to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, invite the stranger in, care for the sick, and visit the imprisoned. We understand those who have are mandated to assist those who have not. These values are extended to the public arena and the workings of governments through our state constitution.
The inherent dignity of the individual, as well as the responsibility of the individual to the state, is recognized in Article I, Section 1, which reads,
“This constitution is dedicated to the principles that all persons have a natural right to life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and the enjoyment of the rewards of their own industry; that all persons are equal and entitled to equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law; and that all persons have corresponding obligations to the people and to the State.”
Likewise, the notion of the common good is recognized in Article I, Section 2:
“All political power is inherent in the people. All government originates with the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the people as a whole.”
We ask that our governor and legislators create a state budget that upholds the values outlined in the constitution.
We ask that our governor and legislators evaluate every budget decision on how it affects the most vulnerable Alaskans: the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the children, the elderly, persons with special needs, the stranger, the sick, and the prisoner.
Historically, Alaskans have always watched out for each other. Together, we can build a budget that serves the common good of all people.
Rev. Rick Cravens, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Wasilla
Rev. Christina DowlingSoka, Willow United Methodist Church, Willow
Rev. Jeff Hackler, Central Lutheran Church, Anchorage
Rev. Diane Krauszer, Trinity Lutheran Church, Palmer
Fr. Joseph McGilloway, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Wasilla
Rev. Lise Adams Sherry, Anchorage Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, Anchorage
Sr. Frances Vista, D.C., Catholic Native Ministry, Anchorage
Rev. Daniel P. Wilcox, Christ First United Methodist Church, Wasilla, and Palmer United Methodist Church, Palmer
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