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Note from Rep. Les Gara
Note from Rep. Les Gara  
Post-Election Update: A Bi-Partisan Alaska House Majority & Bending the Curve on Crime
Note from Rep. Les Gara

November 30, 2016

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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 probably didn’t see a lot of me this summer.  I wish I could say it was because I was out hiking and fishing.  Sadly (for me) I wasn’t. 

I was out working with lots of folks trying to help build a legislature that will put party labels aside and work on our biggest challenges.  After years of inaction I felt, and have stated publicly, that it was time for a Bi-Partisan House coalition that would take action on Alaska’s $3+ billion deficit.  We are almost out of savings, which have been spent to cover years of deficits.  I could write a book on the interesting parts of this summer’s work, but: 1) it would be about a page long unless I filled it with pictures, and; 2) I’d have a hard time selling one. 

Alaskans have said they agree we need to solve these problems.  And they spoke at the polls.  A few weeks ago we were able to elect a coalition of Democrats, Republicans and Independents who’ve agreed to put party labels to the side, and help build a stronger state.

With the current low price of oil – even with a good oil tax law (which I believe we do not have)  - we’d face continuing $3 billion deficits.  I’ve grown tired of fake soundbites that are an excuse for doing nothing.  That we should have no fiscal plan “until we right-size government”.  With one year of savings left that means no fiscal plan until we are out of money.  And some fib that after over a billion dollars of budget cuts the past two years – and (thwarted) attempts to cut even help for those with disabilities and seniors - we can somehow “cut our way out” of the deficit.  That, too, would leave Alaska out of savings in a year, and with a deficit of about $3 billion we would not be able to cover. 

Without action you will face a future of massively underfunded schools, public safety, road maintenance, and little help for seniors and children.  And little support for other things you believe Alaska should do to make sure we have a state where people want to live, and where they can raise families.

In my view, the good news is that enough folks who want to work across party lines have formed a new, Bi-Partisan House majority coalition to help do this.  It won’t be easy.  But pretending we can “soundbite” our way out of this problem isn’t leadership.  It’s just cover for ducking your head in the sand as the state falls of a fiscal cliff.

I’ll write soon about legislative work we are doing, and priorities I’ll push. 

A Sneak Peek: Addressing The Public Safety Problem

I’ll give you a peek at one idea that I’d like to push, and we’ll need lots more on this subject. 

With the increase in crime in Anchorage and other parts of Alaska, including a number of terrible murders, the course of understaffed police departments we are on is dangerous.  Alaska has a “revenue” sharing law, once called “safe communities”, and that provides funds to local communities so they can hire police officers, and address their priorities.  Last year, over my objection, the Legislature reduced what was once a roughly $100 million grant, and then a $60 million and then $50 million grant, to roughly $30 million.  Another major cut is set to follow this coming year.

In Anchorage that means a reduction in community aid from $13 million last year to roughly $3 million next year.  Public safety means more than just police who are so understaffed they mostly just respond after crimes have been committed. Strong police forces work in our neighborhoods to prevent crime in the first place.  It will take some work, but I don’t think the state has to, again, cut this already diminished help to communities this coming year.  That won’t help in bigger communities which do not have enough police to patrol our neighborhoods, or in smaller communities with no law enforcement at all.  It’s not safe for you.  It’s not safe for police or troopers who sometimes have no needed back-up.  It’s something we need to fix.

I hope this holiday season is treating you well.  And I’ll wrote again soon!

My Best,

[signed] Les Gara

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