Cut Waste, Not Opportunities
State Budget Lacks Vision
Last week, during two 20-hour days in Finance Committee and on the House Floor, my colleagues and I in the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition fought against cuts to services for seniors and the disabled, education opportunities from Pre-K to UA, and public safety. We also introduced millions of dollar in cuts for costly megaprojects, such as the Kodiak Rocket Complex and the Knik Arm Bridge. During this time of fiscal crisis, it made no sense to cut vital services yet keep these special pet projects moving.
Speaking on the budget at 3am on March 11
It was disheartening to see the end to all early education, an end to benefits for 5,400 seniors and a dismantling of UAF research and Cooperative Extension. However, I feel good about fighting for you and your wishes here in Juneau. My fight is for the most vulnerable Alaskans who need a hand up, not a hand out. With a deficit of $3.5 billion, we must cut waste —but we must be careful not to do so much damage, that we lose sight of what our great vision is for Alaska.
I agree we need to cut waste from the budget, but not opportunities. The hundreds of millions of dollars the state gives away to oil companies during declining production is a waste of state funds, and I look forward to the upcoming discussion on the Governor’s oil and tax credit reform bill, HB 247, as well as several proposals to restructure the Permanent Fund.
Cutting dollars and cents in a budget is not an easy task and should be done carefully. This budget is more than just money—it is a moral document. The budget reflects our priorities and our values. It speaks volumes to our common goals and how we confront our common challenges. Finally, it reflects our vision for the state of Alaska and the great legacy that we leave for the next generation. I did not support the budget because it is a roadmap to recession. Hasty cuts to important services to Alaskans who need it the most will not only damage our state, but our entire economy.
Oil & Gas Credit Giveaway
Presenting caucus budget priorities to the press
Tonight (Monday, March 14) there is an opportunity to testify on HB 247, the Governor’s bill to restructure oil and gas tax credits. Oil and gas tax credits are projected at $700 million next year, while oil revenue was only around $1.8 billion. Right now, Alaska is paying more in tax credits than we receive in production taxes. In fact, a loophole in the current oil tax law allows companies losing money to get more than 100% of their losses with a state cash rebate! While cutting services to seniors, the disabled and pre-k students, this makes no sense.
If you are interested in testifying, lines will be open after normal working hours from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Monday. Testimony will be limited to three minutes. Please come and voice your opinion by contacting the Fairbanks Legislative Information Office. You can also send your comments to the chairman of the committee, Rep. Ben Nageak, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PFD Deadline Approaches
The deadline to file for your Alaskan PFD March 31. You can even file online! As citizens of an owner state with oil royalty revenues, every Alaskan gets to share in the resources being developed on our North Slope. The Permanent Fund has paid out more in dividends than it received in revenues. We should be thankful that we have the fund, now and hopefully, in the future.
The Permanent Fund has been accurately described as Alaska’s Nest Egg. It took our limited natural resource of oil and has turned it into a $45 billion fund that provides annual dividends and helps build schools and hire police officers. The ‘permanent funds’ of all other states combined are still smaller than ours! And legislators must protect the Permanent Fund for future generations of Alaskans. Less money from oil revenue and massive tax breaks for big oil corporations will continue to put the Permanent Fund and dividends in jeopardy in the future.
I hope legislators and the public are wise about how we preserve our Nest Egg for generations of Alaskans yet to come.
Working Hard for Fairbanks Families,
Representative Scott Kawasaki
Alaska State Representative
City of Fairbanks
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