|The Special Session|
Last week on Wednesday, the legislature adjourned without passing a responsible fiscal plan for Alaska. As the newest member of the Alaska State Legislature, I was extremely disappointed that we were not able to balance the budget even after the session was extended. There is no more important responsibility of the Legislature than to make sure that we honor our responsibility to the people of Alaska by passing a responsible budget. However, we have another chance to get the job done.
On Monday we began a special session called by Governor Walker focused on a comprehensive fiscal plan and a few other very important items to consider including:
These are extremely complicated issues. Many of them would require Alaskans to make significant personal sacrifices. However, Alaskans are both tough and optimistic, and have always been willing to make the sacrifices needed to get the job done.
Thank you to all of you who participated in the District 16 survey I sent in March. Your responses have been loud and clear!
Education, roads, public safety and caring for our seniors are your top prioritiesfor the budget. I will be working to ensure that these priorities are reflected in the operating and capital budgets that we aim to pass in the coming weeks.
You also made it clear that we need oil and gas tax subsidy reform before we look at restructuring the Permanent Fund or passing any new taxes. During better financial times it made sense to use our extra funds to invest in projects that we believed would benefit Alaskans if they were developed. However, just as your family would not invest in an unproven business if your household income just dropped by 80%, the State of Alaska should not be spending money on oil and gas tax credit subsidies when the Governor is asking us to consider a Permanent Fund restructuring that would cost every Alaskan man, woman and child $1,000 per year.
I share your frustration with this slow progress, especially given the scope of Alaska’s fiscal challenges. Fear about the impact of a government shutdown is real. A government shutdown would negatively impact not only our credit rating—which has very real consequences for Alaska—but also the men and women who provide essential state services. I have heard from state employees about the real impacts of threatened pink slips on their ability to plan for their futures and make a difference for our state.
However, I am cautiously optimistic about the potential to pass a budget that reflects our districts priorities in time to prevent a government shutdown. Both the House and Senate have begun holding committee meetings on bills and are working in earnest. It is still possible that we can fund a fair budget compromise in time to prevent a government shutdown.
My Pledge to You
My commitment to you is that I am here in Juneau working hard every day to find a way to meet our constitutional and moral obligation to pass a funded budget. In the meantime, as always, I want to encourage you to reach out to me with any questions, concerns or suggestions for me about our work here in Juneau. After all, I am working for you!