Alaska government can do better for seniors
Alaska faces unparalleled fiscal challenges threatening the hard-won financial and personal security of our elders. In the midst of such challenges it is prudent to utilize a wide and diverse array of policy tools to limit and counteract the damage to our people and institutions. This is not the time to cut programs buttressing the social safety net, the elements of which are the guarantor of our common wealth. Unfortunately, our legislature has taken a different approach.
In the course of the legislature’s past two sessions, we’ve witnessed a zealous attempt to cut our way out of our present predicament with little apparent concern for the vulnerable. The legislature has made cuts to the Senior Benefits program, and cut millions of dollars to programs assisting low-income seniors with home heating and dental care.
It is time to translate public consternation and frustration with ineffective and self-serving behavior in Juneau into concerted actions. I can remember when the state encouraged seniors to stay in Alaska by providing a Longevity Bonus. Now that seniors are staying here the state needs to keep its commitment of supporting those we asked to stay after retirement.
I oppose recent consideration of the implementation of a wait fee at our Pioneer Homes and concur with the judgment of the Commission on Aging that it would needlessly harm low-income seniors. As your next state Senator I will vehemently opponent any attempts to privatize our Pioneer Homes.
As Senator Johnny Ellis was recently commenting on the highlights of his legislative career, he applauded how the state once went on a “savings spree rather than a spending spree.” Unfortunately, we have recently gone on a cutting spree which has hurt vulnerable Alaskans at a time when we all need help.
Ed Wesley is a candidate running in the Aug. 16 primary election for Alaska State Senate.