Surviving Alaska: How The Government Shutdown Could Affect Your 2015 Alaska Vacation!

Are you planning a vacation to Alaska in the summer of 2015?  If so, you need to know that the Alaska Legislature is six weeks late on passing a state budget and if they fail to do so by July 1st 10,000 employees will be laid off and services for residents and tourists will be affected.

We’re all connected!

On the map we may be that little box in the bottom left corner sitting next to Hawaii, but in reality we are subject to the same problems as the rest of the country and world.  With global oil prices dropping, it was only a matter of time before the effects worked their way down to the average person.  Plus, it’s no secret that Alaska’s revenue is highly dependent on oil production, when the prices dropped so did production and revenue for the state.

Something is not adding up???

I’m the first to admit that I could use more education on the topic of oil and the global economy.  I have a problem understanding how the world revolves just fine when oil prices are at a moderate level, but when oil prices rise like they have in the past decade the threat of them dropping back to a moderate price causes a crisis.  I almost feel like everyday people are pawns in a game of chess played by the powers that be.  Please reference this handy chart showing the price of oil per year and inflation to present day and draw your own conclusions.

The Situation

I had the pleasure of speaking with Katie Marquette the Deputy Press Secretary from Governor Bill Walker’s office to find out what’s going on over there in Juneau.  Here is a simplified summary.

  • Alaska is facing a $3.5 billion deficit this year.
  • This is directly related to the global price of oil.
  • It’s on a much higher level than the other Alaska hot topic of State Bill 21 and ACES.
  • Alaska has a Constitutional Budget Reserve of $10.1 billion, which was specifically set aside for times like these.
  • Tapping into said reserve requires a 3/4  majority vote from the Alaska Legislature.
  • Getting a 3/4 majority vote involves politics, Republicans vs. Democrats type of stuff.

Governor Bill Walker hopes the Alaska Legislature will get things worked out before July 1st.  Laying off 10,000 people is the last thing a newly appointed governor wants to do, I also would hope for the same from the Legislature.  The Governor also said he is obligated to tell the effects of a potential government shutdown if this is not resolved in time.

How could this affect your 2015 Alaska vacation?

First off, inconveniences to your Alaska vacation are not as important as not being able to pay your bills or provide for your family because you are one of the 10,000 individuals who might get laid off.  If you happen to run into someone who has gotten laid off, be polite, considerate and supportive of what they are going through.

What would not be affected.

  • Public safety:  Don’t worry the Troopers would still be on the job and the Department of Corrections will still be keeping criminals behind bars.
  • Department of Natural Resources:  There will be administrative layoffs, but firefighters will still be on duty to fight forest fires.
  • The Whittier Tunnel:  The only road between Whittier and the road system will remain open.
  • The Alaska Railroad:  The railroad is state owned but self funding so they are not anticipating any disruptions.
  • Airports:  The larger airports such as Ted Stevens and Fairbanks International Airports will not experience disruptions, but small regional airports may experience reduced hours of operation.

What could be affected.

  • Alaska Marine Highway:  The 11 ferries will be docked and out of service.  If you have plan to go to a remote location on the ferry you might want to make other plans.
  • Alaska State Campgrounds:  The campgrounds would remain open because they generate revenue.  Administrative services would be reduced, including reservations and public information centers.  I was also told the crews servicing campgrounds will be reduced meaning the vault toilets might not be serviced as often.
  • Department of Environmental Conservation:  Programs that monitor air and water quality will face cuts and the Shellfish PSP testing will also be cut.
  • Policing the Politicians:  The agency responsible for watching over the politicians for campaign finance rules will be shut down.  I’m curious how this will play out, will special interest groups try to slip a few things to politicians?
  • Fish Counts:  If you monitor the fish counts in the rivers, you might see disruptions as employees will potentially be laid off.
  • The Department of Law:  Minor violations such as fishing and hunting will not be a priority and may go unprosecuted.  This is no excuse the break the law.

These are a few of the potential disruptions that could affect travelers.  There are many Alaska residents who will be personally affected by the pending layoffs.  Lets hope the powers that be and the politicians quit playing games with the everyday people.





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