Governor Walker has announced a budget-balancing proposal. It’s different in details than what WC has been pressing for over the last two years. But in the fundamentals, it’s pretty similar: (1) sensible taxes on the oil industry, (2) use the Permanent Fund for it intended purposes, and (3) make Alaskans start paying their own way. Governor Walker sensibly recognizes Alaskans cannot budget cut their way to prosperity, or even a balanced budget. And that the revenue problem must be addressed now, while there is still something left of the budget reserve. WC might argue for a seasonal sales tax as well, and a slightly higher state income tax, but in large measure, the Governor has asensible, specific and timely proposal on the table.
But the problem has never been the Governor.
The problem is the Republican-controlled state legislature.
There’s already some posturing going on. Rep. Charisse Millett (R, Anchorage), House Majority Leader, promptly displayed her fiscal ignorance and limited math skills by accusing Governor Walker of “throwing up the white flag of surrender on cutting the budget.” Senator Pete Kelly (R, Asinine), co-Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, was drearily and reliably stupid: ““I wish I had some pithy comment to express my disdain for taxes, but I don’t. So for now, I’ll just say no.” More troubling was Senator Bill Wielechowski, (D, East Anchorage), who responded argued that the Governor’s proposal was “very regressive” — it would have a disproportionate impact on Alaskans with lower incomes, while leaving the state’s big oil companies largely unscathed.
What the Alaska Legislature – Republicans and Democrats – have to recognize is that the party is over. The free ride has ended. The combination of low oil prices, former Governor Parnell’s fiscal folly and the decline of the Prudhoe Oil field has ended Alaskans’ 36 year economic adventure in non-renewable resource extraction.
Throwing a hissy fit and pouting, calling the Governor names or even moaning that this is going to hurt people isn’t going to solve the problem. Delaying, failing to act now, is only going to make it worse. It’s time – well, past time, actually – to get over it, be the grownups in the room, and adopt something pretty close to Governor Walker’s proposal.
There are indications that the voters are getting over their infatuation with the Republican majority coalition. Mayor Ethan Berkowitz in Anchorage; Mayor Karl Kassel in Fairbanks; even Mayor Vern Halter in the Mat-Su Borough all represent the less less conservative alternatives in the last election. At the least, they are hopeful signs that the voters are beginning to recognize that a reduced PFD and an income tax are preferable to a major, statewide economic recession.
Because if the Republican majority coalition fails to act on the Governor’s proposal, then the solution is to throw the bums out.