But Governor Walker Is Not the Problem…

Governor Walker's Proposed Revenue Sources for the 2016 Budget

Governor Walker’s Proposed Revenue Sources for the 2016 Budget

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.


2 thoughts on “But Governor Walker Is Not the Problem…

  1. I think what Alaska’s politicians should have been doing long ago, but failed to do, was to work on diversifying the state’s economy instead of relying on oil revenue to fund most of the state’s budget. Now that the price of oil has decreased substantially, many of them are still in denial of the fact that decreased oil revenue must be supplemented in order for the state to continue providing the level of services it has provided in the past. It is indeed time for them to grow up and make some difficult decisions.

  2. Kevin Meyer said, “We want to lead with reductions and not with taxes.” Fine, here’s an excellent place to start:

    1. The Anchorage office for Anchorage legislators, otherwise known the Tajmahawker, has to go. We can’t afford it and the way we ended up with it appears to have been unlawful. All of that building’s occupants must move into the readily available office space at the Atwood Building at the close of the upcoming legislative session.

    2. Reduce and eliminate the exceedingly high salaries that most of the legislative employees “get” for highly partisan work. Bring them into line with the much, much lower salaries other state workers, who honestly pursue Alaska best interests, earn. Remember how shocked we were to read how much the Majority Press Secretary got when the ADN reported on her drunk driving charges after she left work on day last summer?

    3. Get rid of the “special perks” that no other state employees receive. Remember when Charlie Huggins’ “gal Friday” received full pay and benefits when she was out of state for rehab and never once showed up at the office. Charlie orchestrated an excellent coverup, until it disintegrated. And remember how he protected and stifled news coverage when this same woman threatened her son’s girlfriend with a loaded weapon?

    4. What about the outrageous perdiem that legislators get when they are in Juneau and even when they reside in their own homes (examples are Liesel McGuire, Cathy Gissel, and others). I object to legislators not having to show reciepts for lodging and meals; everybody else in government has to do this in order to receive perdiem reimbursements. During the sessions, however, people like Bill Wielechowski get roommates and split the rent for am entire house or a large apartment. There is no way he pays as rent what the legislature awards him as per diem for housing in Juneau. I say, if they don’t show receipts, then there is no per diem. Same with meals.

    5. There must be significant reduction in the legislative travel budget. Remember when Liesel McGuire and Bob Lynn traveled to Greece, at state expense, to watch events at the Special Olympics? If they really had interest in the Special Olympics, then why did neither travel to Los Angeles when they were held in LA the following year? I once questioned a state-paid international trip that “my” state senator took with his wife so I asked him for an after action report. There was no after action report, email summary or anything else, but I’m certain he and his wife had a grand time … mostly at state expense.

    So after you reduce the legislative budget in the ways I have listed, Kevin Meyer, let me know and I’ll give you more legislative budget cuts to work on.

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