Dunleavy says he won’t send layoff notices unless Legislature ends special session without a budget

Gov. Mike Dunleavy during a news conference on Feb. 13, 2019. (Photo by Governor's Press Office/Flickr)

In a letter to state employees on Wednesday, Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy announced that layoff notices will only go out if the operating budget hasn’t been approved by the end of the special session on June 14. It means state workers will get 10 days’ notice of potential layoffs instead of the 30 they saw the last two times the state neared a shutdown.

The announcement is a departure from the layoff notices sent by Gov. Bill Walker when legislative impasse pushed the state near the brink of a shutdown in 2015 and 2017. Walker sent out layoff notices a month ahead of the potential layoffs, which this year would have been Monday, June 3.

The contract for employees covered under the Alaska State Employees Association says the administration “shall make every effort to give written notice to the employee at least thirty (30) calendar days in advance of the effective date of the layoff.” It says at the bare minimum employees must get 10 days’ notice of potential layoffs.

Dunleavy’s messages to state employees makes no mention of the 30-day notice. Instead, he says he’ll be waiting to see how the remainder of the 30-day special session plays out.

“Alaska law and collective bargaining agreements address the notice requirement of possible furloughs or lay-offs. The requirement is that most receive ten working days’ notice form the end of the fiscal year,” he wrote in his email. “If the Legislature is still unable to pass operating budget by June 14, notices will be sent to employees.”

Dunleavy also asks that state employees keep their head down during the meantime.

“Rather than be distracted by legislative inaction, I ask each of you to join me in focusing on doing our duty as public servants serving the people of Alaska,” he wrote.

The talk of layoff notices came after the Senate announced that it won’t be meeting in regular session for the rest of the week, meaning there’s no chance that a budget will be sent to the governor before the June 3 deadline. The Senate remains divided over the size of the dividend and the Legislature is reluctant to advance the budget until it’s resolved.

The House has subsequently announced that it won’t be meeting in regular session until June 5.

In an email to workers covered by the Alaska State Employees Association, ASEA Executive Director Jake Metcalfe gave an update about the status of the budget and the expectation that layoff notices could soon be coming. He also said that there would be upcoming opportunities for state workers to participate in events between now and July 1.

“Failure to deliver an operating budget for the coming fiscal year would cause chaos in our economy and interrupt the majority of state programs and services. The Legislature and governor are aware of the consequences,” he wrote. “ASEA is in communication with the administration and the Legislature to ensure an operating budget is in place for the new fiscal year. ASEA is also working with Alaska’s other public employee unions and the Alaska AFL-CIO to advocate for the best possible budget compromise. … They understand that fiscal uncertainty is not in the interest of Alaskans.”

In a text message exchange about the governor’s plans to send out layoff notices at the 10-day mark instead of the 30-day mark, Metcalfe said the 30-day deadline is “aspirational,” but acknowledged that “as in the past, it creates unnecessary anxiety.”

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