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Note from Rep. Les Gara
Note from Rep. Les Gara  
A Picture Story (OK, Graphs not Pictures):
Why We Need to Fix The Budget Now
Note from Rep. Les Gara

February 20, 2017

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Letters to the editor make a difference. You can send a letter of up to 200 words (shorter letters are more likely to be accepted) to the Alaska Dispatch News by email (; or by fax or mail (call them at 257-4308). Send letters to the Anchorage Press via e-mail or by mail to 540 E. Fifth Ave, Anchorage, 99501. Feel free to call us if you need factual information to help you write a letter.

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Want to Volunteer To Help A Child?

You can be a Volunteer Mentor to help a child, through a program we worked with foster care advocates to start, at Big Brothers, Big Sisters.  Just call433-4691. Have the time to do more?  Alaska has a major shortage of foster and adoptive parents, and you can help change a life by doing that.  To ask about foster parenting or adopting a child out of foster care call 1-800-478-7307.  And, of course, we are always asking people to donate tax deductible new or used (good condition only) laptops for current and recent foster youth.  You can contact us if you'd like to do that.

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Dear Neighbors:

You know I like writing a lot.  But a picture tells as much as my amazingly awesome – or perhaps not amazingly awesome – writing.

Below I have linked to a few slides I hope you will share them with all who are interested.  They show how not acting, or just taking a meat cleaver to a budget that’s been cut by over $3 billion already, as some Senate Republicans are pushing, will extend the current recession for possibly another ten years or more.  

The question is – what kind of Alaska do you want?  One with good schools, where we can provide jobs and educational opportunity, and dignity for seniors, children and disabled people?  Or one people will move away from, looking for opportunity in another state?

Here are the slides. Share them please.  They are myth-busters and address a lot of the fake claims those who want to duck and do nothing don’t want you to see.

They show the 10,000 – 15,000 jobs in the private and public sector we will lose under soundbite proposals to cut the budget yet another $750 million to $1 billion.  That makes sure we can’t afford schools, road maintenance, public safety or a university that provides opportunity.  This on top of the 9,000 jobs Alaskans lost this year.  According to the University’s Institute for Social and Economic Research, at this point we lose between 1,000 and 1,500 more private and public sector jobs for each $100 million in additional budget cuts.  Oh, and those jobs won’t come back for a decade. 

Great idea if you like a good, long recession.  I’m good with cutting legislative perks and waste, and have pushed to do so.  But that doesn’t come close to adding up to $3 billion a year and closing our deficit.

The slides show our budget, per capita and adjusted for inflation, is the lowest in 35 years.  I hate to burst the bubble of those who claim the Legislature and Governor – Republicans, Independents and Democrats alike – haven’t been cutting the budget to help with the deficit.  It’s been massively cut.

They also show over $3 billion in state spending cuts – a more than 40% reduction in funds that would otherwise spread through the economy – since 2013 and they show $30 million in school funding cuts over the past two years. 

I don’t want a ten year recession.

I don’t want a state people feel they have to move away from.

I don’t want continually cut public school funds and continual class size increases.

The state has cut the Department that protects our disabled Alaskans, seniors, children and people with health problems by over $180 million since 2015; and has cut prosecutors to the point where they are declining more and more cases and putting criminals back on the street. We are now living in a state without enough police officers and Troopers.  We need to get our act together.

As you know, I want a fair and balanced fiscal plan.  Fairness requires that we ask the most privileged, and our oil companies who enjoy unjustified tax breaks and subsidies, to chip in.  I will file an oil tax reform bill today.  But oil tax reform, at low oil prices when companies are not making huge profits, will not solve a $3 billion budget gap.  It will help, but not be a magic bullet unless we want a tax system that guarantees $2 - $3 billion in losses to oil companies.  I want a fair share for Alaskans, to close loopholes and giveaway provisions, but not to sink oil companies into a sea of losses. 

So – the easy soundbites don’t recognize that it’s time to act to close our budget gap, before our savings run out next year.

I wish I could tell you doing little will fix all this.  But listening to those who say do nothing, or who have fake soundbite solutions that get votes but cost jobs, has caused a recession.  Let’s not make that worse.

As always, let me know if we can help.

My Best,

[signed] Les Gara

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