The Alaska Municipal League held its annual winter meeting in the state capitol earlier this week to discuss Governor Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget and the current Legislature’s agenda. AML brings together Alaska’s politicians, policy makers, and mayors, including Nome mayor Richard Beneville.
During an interview with KINY radio in Juneau, Mayor Beneville managed to keep his usual optimism regarding how Nome and the region will respond to the proposed budget.
“Am I worried? Of course. Rural Alaska, with education and all the way around, has tremendous challenges and money is very very important. But we are also among one of the most resilient areas in Alaska. My good friends back east would say ‘we have hutzpah’ and we’re able to survive and adjust to things”
Following the end of the three-day conference yesterday, AML released a statement saying that the budget’s potential impacts to local governments include shifting costs to the local level with tax increases and the reduction or elimination of public services. AML is concerned that Dunleavy’s proposed budget will “result in a State unable to fulfill its responsibilities, wherein staff struggle to meet deadlines, federal compliance, statutory obligations, and mission.”
When interviewed by KTUU, Nils Andreassen, the executive director of AML, went a step further saying the budget pits programs and communities against one another, and does not indicate that Alaska is open for business.
When asked why AML supported state taxes but opposed a budget that could raise municipal taxes, Andreassen said, “the cost shifting from one area of government to another is one thing, but it should be negotiated, and put in place over time.”
As part of future budget negotiations, AML is calling for a rise in the municipal tax cap and the maximum level of education contribution by cities and boroughs.
Mayor Beneville with other Nome representatives like Port Director Joy Baker and NJUS Manager John Handeland met with Representative Neal Foster during the 2019 AML conference in Juneau. Photo provided by John Handeland (2019).