a love letter to alaska

I know the word budget doesn’t sound sexy but it’s actually one of the most romantic things a leader does. It’s not just about allocating funds. It’s about sentiment. Whether you’re a state or a nonprofit or a household, a budget is used by those with big desires. It communicates our values, our ideals, our limits. It separates our wants from our needs.

Like you, when I read the Governor's proposed budget I don’t see numbers, I see people. He is communicating to us, Alaskans, who we want and who we need. When he has enough money to preserve and increase tax credits to the oil industry, he says to us, we need them. Okay. Sure. But when he suggests there is not enough for senior benefits and he cuts programs and raises fees, he says to our elders, we want you, but we don’t need you. When he cuts medicaid and low income dental care, he says to our poor and to our sick, we don’t need you. When he cuts the marine highway that connects our rural communities, he says to our villages, we don’t need you. When he sheds head start, bright beginnings, pre-k; slashes k-12 education, and cripples the University of Alaska by nearly cutting their budget in half, he says to our young people, our youth, we don’t need you.

But in our state, we belong to each other. Maybe it’s the poetry of our geography. Here in Juneau, for example, we are completely surrounded by ocean and ice. Seeing my friends and frenemies at the one Costco, I am often reminded that boundaries don’t just keep things out, they hold things within. Like this, we are bound to one another, we care for one another, we look out for each other.

You cannot get sick or go off a trail or fall into the water without a hundred hands reaching out to you. Not in our state. You can’t know a hunter and not be well fed. We are search and rescue, found and saved, kind of people. We are open door, come in come in people. We are build a fire, build a church, build trust kind of people.

So I know that this budget was not made by someone who is truly Alaskan at heart, or if it was, they don't feel the way we feel about Alaska. No Alaskan survives tries to survive on their own interests alone. It’s just not our way.

As our representatives revise it I know they are reckoning with a different boundary, the bounds of our economic condition. Like anything else in our state, our money and our resources are limited. Our solutions have been at an impasse for years. Perhaps we've forgotten our collective nature and our resourceful spirit. Maybe a blessing of being presented such a bad budget is that we see what needs are at stake. We are reminded of what we are not, and we do not leave each other out in the cold.

Sentiment matters. I saw a meme recently that said I wish Americans loved America the way Alaskans loved Alaska. Lol. We do love this place, and we love the whole place. And when you're as committed and connected as we are, we all share the impacts.

I ask our leaders to lead in this trusted way, to take good care of our state such that we take good care of each other. And I call on my fellow Alaskans to support them and give them courage, because a new budget will still ask us to give up what we really want, in return for what we really need. Part of the romance of Alaska is each other. Here, we pull each other out of the ice, we push each other out of the snow, we feed each other, we teach each other, we heal each other. Here we need each other.

Yee gu.aa yáxh x'wán. Have courage.