What Does 132 Days Get You?

Anchorage Legislative Information Office (Photo Erik Hill/ADN)

Anchorage Legislative Information Office (Photo Erik Hill/ADN), where the people’s work is not getting done

We are now some 132 days into the 90 day legislative session authorized by the Alaska voters. What doe we have to show for it? Not much.

We don’t have Erin’s Law. We have the state legislature’s bowdlerized version, objectionable to far too many Alaskans to make it into law. So protection of children is a bust.

We don’t have Medicaid expansion. Even though an overwhelming majority of Alaskans want it. The state senate’s excuse for rejecting Medicaid expansion doesn’t pass the red-face test. The real reason is pure politics, disconnected from economics, health care and reality. So some 40,000 Alaskans don’t have health care coverage.

And, perhaps the most immediately pressing problem, we don’t have a budget. The majority caucus continues to play “chicken” with Alaska’s economy. Sure, the majority caucus claims they are being responsible, but the indisputable fact is that the State of Alaska will shut down on July 1 because the majority caucus refuses to recognize that the rules for drawing money out of the Constitutional Budget Reserve give the minority caucus a voice.

The majority continues to try and blame the incipient crisis on the minority. Piffle. The voting requirements to draw money from the constitutional budget reserve mandate compromise. The refusal of the majority caucus to engage in compromise is wrong. Blaming the minority caucus is doubly wrong. Risking grave damage to Alaska’s economy by shutting down state government approaches criminal behavior.

The majority caucus suggested raiding the Alaska Permanent Fund to avoid meeting the voting requirement to dip into the Constitutional Budget Reserve. Like every other suggestion to touch the permanent fund, the majority caucus about the third rail of Alaska politics. As in, “touch it and you die.” The majority caucus may be pig-headed and arrogant, but they aren’t insane.

Because all of the negotiations are behind closed doors – another, fundamental problem that a voter initiative should address some day – it’s hard to tell how far apart the parties may be. But the rumor is it’s down to $30 million. That’s six-tenths of one percent of the budget. The majority caucus is willing to risk taking the state economy down over six-tenths of one percent. The majority caucus is suicidal.

So 132 days of legislative session gets you nothing. And shortly it will get us a recession as one of the economy’s biggest employers shuts down. And never forget we are paying these clowns per diem for each and every day of doing nothing. You have to ask if citizens are getting what they are paying for.