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Note from Rep. Les Gara
Note from Rep. Les Gara  
Reminder: This Saturday, Let's Talk, We'll Listen Over Really Good Pizza.
Note from Rep. Les Gara

March 4, 2016

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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Last week we sent you an invitation from Senator Ellis and myself to our annual constituent pizza talk.  We get to give you an update on the legislative session and more importantly, we get to listen to your thoughts.

It will be from Noon until 2 p.m. on Saturday at the Fairview Recreation Center, 1121 E 10th Ave.  And we don’t advertise for companies but I’ll just say we’ll have way better than average pizza if you’d like to bring your kids.

I will also say the legacy of this legislature must be something better than lost jobs and a recession.  That won’t get my support.  I am optimistic we can make it through this budget crisis this year, or if too many legislators refuse, next year with a new legislature.  Putting Alaska back on track to create opportunity both the current and next generation is my priority. 

We have to treat seniors with dignity, which is why I’ve fought unwise cuts to needed help and benefits for Alaska’s seniors.  Some cuts cost more money because when you impoverish people they end up in nursing homes, and otherwise unable to help themselves.  Here is a link to some proposed budget cuts that go way beyond what is reasonable (to people with Alzheimer’s, those born with developmental disabilities, pre-k, our university), and a discussion of possible revenue options you can weigh in on.

I voted for $700 million in cuts last year to help reduce the deficit, and would support the Governor’s proposed level of roughly another $100 million in cuts this year.  But if cuts go too far, like the $400 - $500 million more some are pushing, we will find Alaska in a recession.  According to the university, every $100 million in cuts causes 1,260 private and public sector job losses as there is less money circulating through the economy.  I don’t want a state that forces people to leave, and I think we will get to a reasonable solution to our budget problems.

My personal view is that a “cut the Dividend only” plan being pushed by some legislators (and some wealthy and corporate interests who don’t want to chip in their fair share) is not balanced.  It doesn’t solve the deficit.  And that approach hits the 50% of Alaskans who earn the least income very hard (10 – 20% of their income comes from the Dividend according to the university).  I’m not a class warfare fan. 

We have to be fair in fiscal plan, and some ideas you might choose for a balanced approach are suggested in a recent newsletter I linked above.  To solve a $4 billion deficit an approach has to be comprehensive, involve cuts to waste, and be fair to all, not just corporations and the wealthiest (wealthier Alaskans I know want to help, and know a plan can’t rest on the backs of seniors, children and those with little).

"Cuts should come carefully, with a scalpel, and not be made recklessly with a chainsaw."

I will keep fighting to cut waste (excessive legislative travel – which I don’t participate in – the wasteful, expensive Legislative Office Building in Anchorage, the money-losing state rocket launch complex, for example), but beyond waste, we can’t keep cutting basic services that harm people’s lives, roll back educational opportunity, and make Alaska a place we don’t want to live.  For example, today we are at the point that Alaska is now prosecuting a lower percentage of felony crimes due to DA reductions, putting fewer teachers and resources into public education, even as child abuse and neglect continue to grow. 

I am optimistic we will get through this, together.  I am willing to compromise with my peers, in a principled way.  The problems is whether enough people are willing to compromise.  As a Democrat in a Republican Majority Legislature, I am willing to accept some ideas from across the aisle, but that needs to be mutual.  You can’t work “together” alone.

I hope to see you Saturday.

My best,

[signed] Les Gara


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