Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy announced sweeping budget vetoes on Friday, including nearly a $1 million for commercial fisheries management. Plus, a 50-percent cut in travel, which was implemented across all state divisions. The governor says the cuts are necessary to balance the state’s budget and issue a full $3,000 Permanent Fund Dividend this fall.
Those vetoes to ADF&G’s budget are short-sighted, and could lead to less time for the fleet to fish, as well as fewer commercial openings. That’s according to Kodiak’s two legislators.
First, Sen. Gary Stevens.
“Of course it’s always short-sighted when you cut Fish and Game. It’s just really crucial that we have the personnel we need there to manage our resources and to make sure they continue to be there when we need them.”
Rep. Louise Stutes chairs the House Special Committee on Fisheries. She says the governor’s cuts were disappointing, especially those to the Commercial Fisheries Division.
“That’s revenue generating. That’s not necessarily an expense. It may be funds to support the weir counters and the aerial surveys, but in the long run that creates revenue for the state because it allows these different fisheries to stay open longer.
Stutes explains that when it comes to managing fish, it’s best to err on the side of caution to ensure stocks are not overharvested.
“When they have a more accurate weir count then the Department of Fish and Game makes it very clear that if they don’t have the personnel to do the appropriate counts, they’re going to manage very conservatively. And when they manage conservatively, that means less openings. Or they’ll close the season earlier. Those are dollars that the state’s not going to get by him vetoing those funds to the Department of Fish and Game. It just doesn’t make sense to me under any conditions.”
Both Stevens and Stutes say they welcome comments from constituents. You can contact both through the Legislative Information Office which is 486-8116.
The two legislators will be heading back to Juneau for the special session on the Permanent Fund Dividend which begins Mon. July 8.