Attorney questions fuss around legal services cuts

Posted: Wednesday, September 01, 2004

I don't understand the fuss regarding Gov. (Frank) Murkowski's $62,500 cut to Alaska Legal Services. This cut is less than 2 percent than the organization's reported $3.2 million budget (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, July 21). Threats of significant layoffs and multiple office closures made by the governor's critics just don't seem to ring true when these numbers are considered.

Alaska Legal Services is not a state agency. Therefore the money that the state has given to it in the past has been in reality a charitable donation and not in the form of funding of state-provided services. Nearly all agree that the state faces a tough budgetary and financial situation, so people should not be surprised that charitable giving at prior levels is not feasible. There are countless other state-provided services that require priority over nongovernmental groups that are already well-funded.

No, Gov. Murkowski is not out to get the little guy or hurt the underprivileged. And no one is saying the services Alaska Legal Services provides are not valuable and appreciated. The governor merely identified an area where funding is provided almost entirely from nonstate sources and where a cut in state funding would likely have the least impact. No doubt, the governor knew his political opponents would seize on these types of tough but reasonable decisions and blow them out of proportion. We're lucky to have a leader that is not afraid to take the heat and make those decisions.

William Large, Anchorage



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