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Note from Rep. Les Gara
Note from Rep. Les Gara  
"Unspecial Session": Will Agree To Smart Cuts,
Not Damage to Education, Seniors, and Children
Note from Rep. Les Gara

April 24, 2015

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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 (letters@alaskadispatch.com); or by fax or mail (call them at 257-4308). Send letters to the Anchorage Press via e-mail editor@anchoragepress.com 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.

Contact the Governor. The Governor can be reached at 269-7450; or www.alaska.gov.

Contact us. My office can be reached at: 733 W. 4th Ave, Anchorage, AK 99501; by phone: 269-0106; visit my website at http://gara.akdemocrats.org; or email: Rep.Les.Gara@akleg.gov

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Dear Neighbors:

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:

  1. Giving away $640 million more to oil companies in tax credits than Alaska gets back in Oil Production Tax revenue is fiscally irresponsible;
     
  2. Decimating academic opportunity, firing hundreds of teachers and educators, and ending state-funded pre-k when there are smarter cuts;
     
  3. Cutting Senior Benefits for our elders who have a hard time putting food on the table and paying for needed medicine and medical care is the wrong cut; 
     
  4. Spending on a $35 million Bragaw Road Extension, spending more towards a $6 billion Susitna Dam we don’t need at this point, are fiscally irresponsible right now; 
     
  5. It is wrong to block Medicaid Expansion and Reform from a vote.  But some GOP leadership say they won’t allow this vote even if the bill would pass, even though it saves Alaska $600 million in state spending in the next 6 years, gets us 4,000 new needed jobs at a time we should fear recession, and gets affordable health care to thousands of Alaskans.  A Medicaid Expansion and Reform bill will also reduce health insurance costs for the rest of us because hospitals won’t have to pass on the costs to insured people for the thousands who have no insurance and go to the emergency room for expensive medical care. 

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 letters@alaskadispatch.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.

My Best,

[signed] Les Gara

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