The Alaska Legislative Session, in its second special session, and months late, finally adopted a budget. The special session ended, to borrow a phrase from T.S. Eliot,1 not with a bang but a whimper. But the whole process has been far to absurdist to find relevance in T. S. Eliott. We have to resort to Doug Adams to make sense of the First Session (and two special sessions) of the 29th Legislature.
The Legislature, and in particular the state senate majority caucus, inflicted a lot of emotional turmoil on state employees, the voters and the state’s credit reputation. That’s a lot of misery. Did it accomplish anything? Let’s look at the report card.
The Budget: Random cuts to programs the majority dislikes, rather than any kind of sensible prioritization.2 Because so little of the state budget involves discretionary spending, the $400 million cut inflicts a lot of pain but addresses only about 13% of the total deficit. The minority caucus in the state house leveraged the 3/4ths vote requirement to dip into the constitutional budget reserve to keep a contractual state pay increase, but otherwise the minority couldn’t manage to reduce the carnage to governmental services. Overall Score: D+, with the failure to address the real revenue problem earning the Legislature an Incomplete. And before you say, “Hey, at least there’s a budget,” remember the late Douglas Adams’ characterization of products of the fictional Sirius Cybernetics Corporation.3
It is very easy to be blinded to the essential uselessness of [their products] by the sense of achievement you get from getting them to work at all. In other words – and this is the rock solid principle on which the whole of the Corporation’s Galaxy-wide success is founded – their fundamental design flaws are completely hidden by their superficial design flaws.
Which nicely summarizes the majority caucus’s budgetary work process and product.
Child Safety: The Legislature adopted some of Erin’s Law, backing out some of the hack job done earlier by Senator Mike Dunleavy (R, Child Abuse). The result, again to borrow a Doug Adams’ phrase, “is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.”4 WC rarely finds himself agreeing with Rep. Tammi Wilson (R, Dumpster-diving), but she is correct in calling the multiply-amended Senate bill a “piece of crap.” It’s marginally better than nothing. Overall score: D+.
Medicaid Expansion: Killed. Using a made-up excuse, an invented lie, that the State government couldn’t handle expanded services, the senate majority caucus failed to advance Medicaid expansion to a floor vote. As a result, you and WC and other insured get to pay the costs of the some 40,000 uninsured Alaskans. Remember, the Feds would pay essentially of all of the costs associated with providing Medicaid to those 40,000 citizens. But the senate majority caucus doesn’t care about the damage to human lives, increased health care costs, rising health insurance premiums or elementary fairness. Again, Doug Adams:5
One of the major difficulties Trillian experienced in her relationship with Zaphod was learning to distinguish between him pretending to be stupid just to get people off their guard, pretending to be stupid because he couldn’t be bothered to think and wanted someone else to do it for him, pretending to be outrageously stupid to hide the fact that he actually didn’t understand what was going on, and really being genuinely stupid.
Why is the majority caucus being egregiously stupid? Your call, but WC’s money is on a political agenda that puts politics ahead of absolutely everything else, even human lives. Which is criminally stupid. Overall score: F.
One last Adams quote, this one from Marvin the Paranoid Android: “Life, loathe it or ignore it, you can’t like it.”6 Substitute “Legislature” for “life” and you’ve nailed it.
In just 122 days, we’ll start the Second Session. Sigh.
- T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men,” “This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang but a whimper.” ↩
- Random cuts to programs he dislikes is a hallmark of State Senator (and Finance Co-Chair) Pete Kelly. Senator Kelly has a long record of personal vendettas triggered by his sense of personal moral outrage. ↩
- Douglas Adams, So Long, Thanks for All the Fish. ↩
- Douglas Adams, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. ↩
- Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe. ↩
- Ibid. ↩