"Caucus of the Whole"
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Yesterday the democratic coalition rolled out a compromise message to the legislature. The minority leaders from both the house and the senate proposed a “caucus of the whole”—a unified legislature—one which works together and removes partisanship in the legislature to aid in moving forward in finding a solution to the budget deficit. This proposition was set forth with the spirit of the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Alaska Constitution in mind, when people from all sides were able to come together and do what was best for our newly emerging state.
Shortly after our announcement, the House Rules Committee introduced HCR23—a resolution to suspend the Uniform Rules of the Alaska State Legislature. The resolution aims at prioritizing the work strictly related to the budget by suspending committee meetings that are not directly related to it. This is seen as an attempt to focus the process and be more succinct in how decisions are made. Although I support the resolution for its intention to bring the legislature together to get work done, my concern is that the biggest challenge we face is how some define the budget.
The budget is the people of Alaska. It’s how we educate our children and it’s how we deliver services, plow our roads and maintain infrastructure. Rather than cutting deeper into education and health care, we must continue to invest in Alaska’s future while focusing on new ways to diversify the economy.
The cost drivers of healthcare in the state are out of control. With premiums at an all-time high, and insurers backing out of the market, it’s obvious that something needs to change. By eliminating the waste and bureaucracy associated with the private insurance industry, a single payer system could save the state millions.
Rep. Guttenberg at the “caucus as a whole” press conference.
Broadband telecommunications needs to be expanded. Alaska is a unique state because so many of our communities are remote. Even many neighborhoods in Fairbanks don’t have access to adequate Broadband. It’s critical to our economy that we are able to communicate with each other, as well as the outside. Improving broadband would be a significant investment for the state.
I look forward to expediting the process and working on the budget. I will continue to work towards protecting Alaskans’ health care, education and infrastructure, so that when we do rebound, our state is intact and able to thrive.