We're dying as fast as we can, governor

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, May 02, 2003

I am 84 years old. My friend who came to Alaska with me 55 years ago is going on 91. Some years ago, when the idea of a longevity bonus was put forth, the idea seemed to be that it would maybe honor people who had lived in Alaska a long time and who were retiring or retired and would find a little bonus like that helpful in making it possible for them to remain in Alaska and do their little bit to contribute to the economy and volunteer a bit of their time and expertise to a country that they really loved. There was no indication that it was to be a welfare program. I don't think many of us wanted welfare.

Then I get a letter from the governor, sent at government expense, saying the state budget is going to be balanced by cutting off the longevity bonus. But rejoice! If we really need it, the state will hire people to check us out and put us through the hoops to see if we really need welfare. He said there weren't very many of us who qualified.

He was right! I don't qualify for welfare. But I was in a roomful of people the other day, who live here, many of them for many years, and they all did qualify for the original bonus. Now we are all getting a little more fragile, (and maybe not dying off fast enough to satisfy the governor and the legislators), and it's decided that we're costing the state too much money.

Well, really, I don't want welfare. In fact, I never did go that route.

There may have been a few years, back in those old days, when I could have qualified - back before the oil days, when Alaska wasn't really a very rich state. When we came here we lived in a house without electricity, and no running water during much of the winter months, drove on unpaved roads that had some problems with frost heaves in the winter and voluminous clouds of dust in the summer. Sometimes it did occur to us that we might be doing a little pioneering. And I admit, the longevity bonus did help a bit in making it possible to stay in a state that I really did love.

Why did I like it? Yes, it's a beautiful state. But the main thing I liked was the people. There was a sort of feeling that Alaskans were different - the ones that were really true Alaskans. And the ones that weren't true Alaskans didn't stay very long. So they did get on the bonus list? The ones who stayed, turned out to be Alaskans, too.

You were getting rid of the bonus by attrition. Why don't you leave it that way? We'll try to die a little faster, if that'll help!

Bea Shepard

Juneau



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