Getting Your Priorities All Wrong

The State of Alaska Economy. Don't worry. Senators Chenault and Kelly are in charge

The State of Alaska Economy. Don’t worry. Senators Chenault and Kelly are in charge.

The Alaska Legislature adjourned without acting on any of the issues on its agenda.1 The Legislature, faced with the gravest fiscal crisis in its history, bailed. The Republican Majority Coalition didn’t even hold a substantive hearing. It’s the greatest legislative abdication of constitutional responsibility in WC’s memory.

In the absence of legislative action, 70% or more of the state budget will be funded from the Constitutional Budget Reserve. At that rate, the CBR will be exhausted in a little less than two more years. All future generations of Alaskans will be denied the interest those funds might have earned. The chance for an economic “soft landing” by phasing in new revenue sources is that much shorter.

The Governor, through the line item veto, made more and deeper budget cuts than he Legislature did. For all of whining about those cuts, neither the House or the Senate made any effort to override Governor Walker’s veto. There are two theories why the Majority Coalition didn’t try for an override: (1) they knew they didn’t have the votes, or (2) they knew it had to be done and this way the Governor had to do the dirty work. WC nots both can be true.

As for why the Legislature simply went home without acting, there have been a handful of excuses. The feeble things don’t withstand even the lightest scrutiny.

“Staying here for another 30 days is not going to resolve the revenue issue before us,” House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski

“Staying here for another 30 days is not going to resolve the revenue issue before us,” House Speaker Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski

Can we think about this? Leaving without trying to address the revenue issues, by definition, cannot solve the problems. The decision to leave makes it impossible. Trying to address the issues at least carried the possibility of solving them. Speaker Chenault seems to really be saying , “It’s hard.” True enough, but never an excuse for inaction.

“Alaska’s indeed in a fiscal crisis,” said Rep. Wes Keller, R-Wasilla. “It’s epic, it’s huge, and we’re all in awe and in shock of it.”

Legislators have known about the problem for years now. Anyone competent would be over any “awe and shock” by now and be ready to address the problem and not just piss and moan about it.

“This governor has not proposed a fiscal plan. What he has proposed is a spending plan. More spending, more taxes, more government and less money in the pockets of Alaskans,” said Rep. Craig Johnson (R-Hyperbole) (and a candidate for state Senate).

Actually, Governor Walker did propose a detailed fiscal plan. Actually, Gov. Walker cut more from the budget with his line item veto than the Legislature did. Actually, over the next five years Gov. Walker has worked to preserve at least some of the Permanent Fund. Rep. Johnson and his fellow coalition members would burn through it, just like the Constitutional Budget Reserve. Actually, Rep. Johnson, everything you said is untrue.

“Should the governor come up with 21 House votes and 11 votes from the other body, then our meeting in special session may be fruitful,” said House Speaker Mike Chenault.

The last time WC checked the Alaska Constitution, it was the Speaker of the House, not the Governor, who was in charge of “lining up votes.” The Constitution says that for a special session, the Governor can set the agenda, but the majority party in the House and the Senate takes it from there. WC thinks Speaker Chenault’s statement may be one of the more bizarre claims out of a bizarre Legislature.

WC can offer a better excuse than the clowns in the Legislative Branch. In the minds of the Majority Coalition, getting home to campaign for re-election is more important than dealing with the worst fiscal crisis in the state’s history. For WC, that should be an automatic basis for voting for someone else. because it reveals the Republican Majority caucus has its priorities all wrong. They are placing their self-interest – getting relected – ahead of the state’s and the voters’ short and long term interests.


  1. WC thinks Dermot Cole was far too polite about this. 

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