The Alaska Legislature and the First Law of Holes

Do you know the First Law of Holes?1

If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

It’s kind of basic, but it seems to be beyond the grasp of the Republican majority in the Alaska Legislature. Because they just keep digging.

Standard & Poors announced Friday that it would likely drop Alaska’s credit rating if Gov. Bill Walker’s administration moves ahead with a plan to borrow money to reduce the shortfall in the state’s pension funds. The pension fund shortfall is another unhappy consequence of the Alaska Legislature’s failure to act on Alaska’s fiscal crisis. Governor Walker was left to struggle to meet Alaska’s obligations to its retirees using the limited tools available to him. Bonding the state’s obligations and betting on the come may be a bad idea, but defaulting is worse. The limited options are the fault of the Alaska Legislature. And the increased interest rates on Alaska bonds, which will aggravate Alaska’s fiscal crisis, are equally the fault of the Legislature. You see? They just keep digging.

That would be the same legislators who adjourned on regular session and two special sessions without acting on 8/9ths of Governor Walker’s budget-balacning proposals. Our elected representatives didn’t vote them down; they didn’t vote on them at all. Why? Because, according to state Senate President Kevin Meyer (R, Conoco-Phillips), “the motivation’s not there from the House.” So the Senate’s excuse for acting is that the House didn’t, and the House’s was that they weren’t motivated? You have to wonder what in Bog’s name it takes to get the House motivated? A full-blown economic depression? And you have to wonder why the Senate depends upon the House’s “motivation” to act. You see? They just keep digging.

Decades of work developing the University of Alaska are being lost as brutal cuts are made to programs, faculty and staff. Highway maintenance stations are being closed which means roads are going to be closed more often, routine road maintenance will be deferred or go unperformed, resulting in still greater maintenance expenses later. All because the Legislators can’t find their motivation? Or, more likely, their collective spine? Instead, they keep digging.

Can we be completely clear about this? In the face of the greatest fiscal crisis hitting Alaska since the 1980s, the Alaska Legislature has done nothing to seriously address the looming disaster. Sure, they have cut the state budgets here and there – but not their own compensation and perks – but it’s been clear for three years that you can’t solve the state’s fiscal crisis with budget cuts. Although you can make it worse. Which they have done. See? Still digging.

WC doesn’t get to vote in the upcoming election.WC is an Idaho resident now. But WC earnestly hopes that Alaska voters will solve the First Law of Holes by firmly removing the shovels and the diggers from the holes and electing someone with more sense.

Because, if they don’t, the Legislature won’t be the only ones violating the First Law of Holes.


  1. The proverb is usually attributed to the late Will Rogers, but it’s been traced back to The Washington Post in an issue dated October 25, 1911, in the form: “Nor would a wise man, seeing that he was in a hole, go to work and blindly dig it deeper…”