I’m Here for You
I want to hear from you,
July 16, 2016
We Work for the People of Alaska
Yesterday, we adjourned the historic 5th Special Session of the Alaska Legislature. Two issues were on the agenda- developing a long term fiscal plan and the Governor’s vetoes.
I take it to heart that we work for the people of Alaska. We must have a comprehensive fiscal plan that can pay for the essential duties of government such as roads, schools, and public safety. However, the plan must also be equitable, protect jobs and the economy, and should not unfairly burden one group of people over another.
I was greatly disturbed when on the first day session I began to be pressured by powerful special interests and their lobbyists who jumped at the chance to misuse the sense of economic urgency to try to avoid their share of tending to our State. A state which has given us all so much and made many people very wealthy.
Governor Walker put forward a courageous plan for lawmakers to use as a starting point—one that demonstrates we are all in this together; knowing everyone will have to do their part.
As it is written, the public is not supportive of the Governor’s plan. Everyday Alaskans will be burdened more than big industry and the wealthy. Fortunately, the plan is written in pencil and not in ink. It still needs work and progress has been slow. This fiscal crisis was years in the making so it is not surprising that finding practical solutions will take some time, and we’re not there yet.
Now it is the middle of July and there isn’t enough votes one way or the other. It doesn’t make sense to continue spending public money on another expensive special session until we have figured it out and are ready to vote.
That doesn’t mean we will stop working. We will continue to work towards a bipartisan sustainable fiscal plan that is fair to all Alaskans--one that all Alaskans will be proud of.
Deep budget cuts have been made.
Over the past few year we have made tremendous cuts to the state budget. Many Alaskans have been told that government expenditures have ballooned over the past several years even as revenue has fallen. This isn't true.
The expenditures for fiscal year 2017 ($4.3 billion) are approximately the same level of spending as fiscal year 2007- not adjusted for inflation or population growth. We have cut back spending to the actual budget number we had 10 years ago and before the spending growth that occurred from 2007-2012 when we had additional record revenues coming in from our oil.
Much of this growth was necessary to cut government spending on outdated technology and bring us into the 21st century. This created greater efficiencies and better services to the public at cheaper costs. We now are reaping the benefits of those investments and have returned to a smaller budget.
We have endured painful cuts to education (including early education, K-12, the university, and school bond debt reimbursement), senior assistance, public safety, and other essential services.
And now, the Governor has used his veto authority to cut the Permanent Fund Dividend, a key element of his fiscal plan, and the Senate has refused to meet in a joint session to do any veto overrides.
Fortunately, we have savings and we gave the governor a fully funded budget from our savings account and not from any part of the Permanent Fund.
Whenever there is a loss of income to pay for government, that should be considered a tax. Cutting Alaskan's permanent fund checks by restructuring the fund is one of the most unfair taxes imposed. It would require children and fixed income seniors to pay the same tax as millionaires.
Currently, the only quick fix that the administration is prepared to consider for a fiscal plan is using the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve. I have a problem with this. I support a comprehensive fiscal plan, but not one that unfairly burdens the less fortunate for the fix.
The Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition is dedicated to continue working together with all members of the Legislature and the Governor’s Administration, and to share the burden and responsibility so solutions are ready to go in the next session.
I’m here for you, so please keep in touch on matters important to you and your family!
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