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"Unspecial Session": Will Agree To Smart Cuts,
Not Damage to Education, Seniors, and Children
Sometimes politics gets a little loopy. OK, very loopy. But I also know I have a job to do, and will keep working for a smart budget, and budget cuts that don’t move Alaska backwards or to the brink of recession.
Right now I am looking at a budget that damages academic opportunity by cutting hundreds of teachers and educators, that cuts help to our most vulnerable seniors, and that, depending on the day, hits our most vulnerable, neglected children. The GOP Senate Leadership and I just have different priorities, which I can respect, but not trade my conscience, and your future, away to appease. That’s why session isn’t over. I refuse to agree to sacrifice our economic future, and the $600 million in state budget savings (and 4,000 jobs) that would come if we just accepted a Medicaid Expansion and Reform bill that has been stalled in committee for the past month.
I want smart cuts, not ones that put us on the brink of recession. Reckless cuts tell parents with skills we need for our economy to think about leaving Alaska because they see no commitment to our public education system, or an academic future for their children.
And there’s a dual standard I see for people on one hand, and corporations on the other.
While children and Seniors are being asked to “feel the pain”, there’s a special deal for corporations. They are being offered millions in easy subsidies that, frankly, are costly and unnecessary. In the next two years, our new oil tax law, which I voted against, will give oil corporations $640 million more in state money than we get back in Oil Production Tax revenue. That’s not sane, and Sen. Bill Wielechowski and I tried to put in an emergency bill to fix that law’s most glaring flaws until we can have a more comprehensive debate. The oil tax passed in 2013 is only getting us the same investment and oil projects that were moving ahead under the prior oil tax law. Our press release explaining that bill is linked here.
I’ll agree to the common goal of the Governor, House Democrats, and Republicans, of cuts in the area of $1 billion in state spending. But we can’t mislead the public that these major cuts will fix our budget deficit. According to our Legislative Finance Division, these cuts will not stop us from running out of savings in 2 to 3 years, as we have a $4 billion budget gap. And this non-partisan Finance staff has written a hundred times that we could fire every trooper, every prison guard, and every employee funded with state general funds, and still not cut that much from the budget deficit.
But I will put children, education and seniors ahead of unaffordable low-priority projects like the $6 billion Susitna Dam (which would serve the same people as the gasline the Governor is working on), and the $1.7 - $2 billion Knik Arm bridge, connector roads, and tunnel.
Here are some things that should be fixed:
We all know we have to cut the budget. But we should do it smartly. While I think that could have been done in the 90-day session, one Senator, who I like, admits that they are making some additional cuts this week just as a negotiating tool. I understand negotiations. But I also want to get the people’s work done.
You can help by educating the public in social media, and more importantly by writing letters to the editor to your local newspaper, and also to the Alaska Dispatch at email@example.com. Be sure to go to the newspaper websites first, as letters above the allowed word limit do not get printed. The Dispatch site is www.adn.com).
As always, call with any questions.