Dunleavy, who promised no Pioneer Home cuts, looks to collect $15 million a year more from residents
As a candidate for governor, Mike Dunleavy promised that he would not cut the budget for the six Pioneer homes in Sitka, Ketchikan, Juneau, Fairbanks, Anchorage and Palmer.
Sometime after the election Dunleavy decided that he wanted to cut the state appropriation in half and squeeze up to $15 million more out of residents who are not already indigent.
This all comes with a dream that the missing millions can be made up by collecting thousands more per month from Pioneer Home residents who may have resources that they have yet to hand over to the state.
It’s not clear how many residents, average age 87, can afford to pay thousands more per month or for how long, so it’s not clear exactly how much of that $15 million in added revenues is realistic.
Dunleavy hasn’t explained his logic on this or any other budget reversal, except to say that he refuses to consider any taxes or tax increases, so he is helpless to deal with this in any other way. If he is helpless, that’s his choice.
I’ve written here before that the state displayed an appalling lack of judgment in dealing with the Pioneer Home rate increase plan. It has advanced new regulations to raise the top rate from $6,795 a month to $13,000 a month. (The top rate for a new special wing in Anchorage for residents with severe problems would be $15,000 a month.)
Given Dunleavy’s campaign promises for no cuts, it was bad judgment to announce extreme rate increases and a substantial policy change about the homes without first consulting the residents or their families or the public.
Dunleavy administration staff are now saying that rate increases at the homes have been long overdue and that it is essential to start charging residents who still have some financial assets exactly what it costs to care for them. This never came up during Dunleavy’s campaign and he did not push for rate increases as a legislator.
Residents who have already run through all of their money would still qualify for a state subsidy and no one would be kicked out for being unable to pay, the administration says.
Before doing this, he should have consulted the residents, their families and the public. It is not too late for Dunleavy to withdraw the proposed rate increases and take a more humane approach.