Governor Bill Walker announced his intentions Tuesday to keep the Dillingham District Attorney’s office open. Walker’s amended operating budget restores the $340,000 of funding the Department of Law had originally proposed cutting in the December version of the budget.
The Dillingham DA’s office was slimmed down last summer to just one attorney and one paralegal, and it was understood that the next round of cuts could see the office all the way closed. Still it came as a bit of a surprise in early December when the Department of Law offered up closing the office to save an estimated $340,000.
Among those caught off guard were Sen. Lyman Hoffman and Rep. Bryce Edgmon, who felt they had left Juneau at the end of the last Legislative session with the Governor’s personal assurance that the office would stay open.
“Well you know obviously I’m very pleased,” Edgmon said of the amendment Wednesday morning. “I think it’s the outcome of a lot of hard work, both down here in Juneau and from a lot of concerned citizens in, not just the Dillingham area, but also the Bristol Bay area as a whole.”
Not many of the governor’s amendments added to his proposed budget. Rather, Walker touted an additional $135 million in reductions for the FY 17 budget these changes would bring.
“It’s very difficult to get things back in the budget. To me this is step one,”said Edgmon. “Step two is to keep it in the budget, and I think myself and Senator Hoffman clearly have our work cut out for us to make that happen.”
The House has put everything aside but work related to the budget, grappling with how Alaska will pay its way this year and in the future in an era of low oil prices and low oil production. The session is now a third of the way through.
“We’re getting a lot closer,” Edgmon said of passing a budget. “We’re about two to three weeks out. And of course this is not an ordinary year, we have other considerations, looking at the long term. So things will get a little bit more involved as we get more towards the end of February.”
The Dillingham DA’s office is still open, though the attorney who had been assigned to it resigned in January. The new attorney assigned to Dillingham court cases lives and works out of Anchorage. If funding for the Dillingham office survives the Legislature’s efforts to cut the state’s budget, who gets staffed where remains to be seen.