Dunleavy administration waits to warn of layoffs as budget pressure grows

A four story concrete building
The Alaska State Capitol building in Juneau. (Skip Gray/360 North)

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration says it will give state workers 10 days’ notice of layoffs if the Legislature fails to agree on a budget in the next month and the government shuts down. That’s a sharp departure from the previous administration, which gave employees at least 30 days’ notice.

To avert a shutdown, state lawmakers need to pass an operating budget by July 1.

But, that hasn’t happened yet. The Legislature is now more than a month past the 90-day legislative session deadline set by voters, mired in a special session and making little progress on reconciling the differences between competing version of the budget passed by the House and the Senate.

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Bargaining agreements with state worker unions require that most employees get at least 10 days’ notice before they’re laid off, Dunleavy spokesman Corey Allen Young wrote in an email Thursday. The agreements also say the state should make “every effort” to give 30 days’ notice, he added.

Young said the state is sticking to the 10-day requirement for two reasons. One is that procedurally, the state operating budget is close to passing both the House and Senate, with only a few votes required before it will go to Dunleavy for his signature.

The Legislature’s 30-day special session is also set to expire June 18, meaning that “there is still time before the special session ends for the budget to pass and not run into the 10-day notice,” Young said.

The other reason for waiting is because issuing the warnings 30 days in advance has caused confusion and miscommunication among the state workforce in the past, Young added.

Union representatives, however, were not happy with the administration’s choice.

Leaving the layoff warnings until 10 days from a shutdown is the “bare minimum” required, said Jake Metcalfe, the head of the Alaska State Employees Association, the state’s largest public employee union.

“ASEA members work hard providing the critical services Alaskans depend on across the state,” Metcalfe said in an email. “They have sacrificed everything and performed heroically this last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this is what they get from this administration — the bare minimum. State employees deserve better than that.”

Nathaniel Herz is an Anchorage-based journalist. He's been a reporter in Alaska for a decade, and is currently reporting for Alaska Public Media. Find more of his work by subscribing to his newsletter, Northern Journal, at natherz.substack.com. Reach him at natherz@gmail.com.

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