Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Here’s an update as the legislature’s second special session lurches along.
Despite strong public support for Governor Walker’s three special session goals, the Republican majorities in the House and Senate adjourned without passing a budget, without expanding Medicaid, and without passing “Erin’s Law.” My fellow caucus members and I voted against it, but the Republican majority then took a 12-day vacation.
We still do not have a fully funded budget. Alaska failed to secure federal funding to allow 40,000 Alaskans to receive medical care. We have not passed Erin’s Law protecting our kids from sexual assault.
I have always stood up for keeping our promise on education funding, honoring our state worker contracts, expanding Medicaid, and protecting children. I will continue to do so, no matter where the Legislature goes, or how long it takes.
The Republican majorities have now called themselves into special session in Anchorage. But they still can’t find consensus on how to move forward.
In contrast, the Democratic and Independent Caucus has held a clear position all along. The Republican majority has known what we want since January, but has yet to articulate a clear counteroffer.
Constitutionally, the legislature cannot pass an unbalanced budget, but the Republican majorities did so anyway. They proposed spending $5 billion, but came up with only $2.5 billion to pay for it. Appropriately, Governor Walker approved the plan to cover this year’s cost overruns and unexpected expenses, but vetoed the inadequately funded FY16 portion of the budget.
We still have to build a legal spending plan that recognizes our fiscal situation but doesn’t crash the state’s economy.
That process has generated a lot of talk.
We’re all proposing cuts, but we prioritize those reductions differently.
Our caucus suggested reductions in or outright elimination of money for boondoggle capital projects. The Republican majority didn’t want to hear about them. Their priorities are different.
Here’s an example: I offered and passed a budget amendment in the Finance Committee to cut state expenses by eliminating an ineffective program, but the Republican majority restored it. Yes, they added money back into the budget.
They’re willing to cut money for our school kids, but hold an ineffectual program harmless? That’s wrong.
Here’s where I stand on several important issues:
1. Medicaid expansion: approve it as quickly as possible. It improves health care coverage for Alaskans and saves money.
2. Erin’s Law: pass HB 44 as originally written as quickly as possible. It will protect Alaska’s children.
3. The FY16 budget: restore the cuts to public education, honor negotiated state employee contracts, maintain senior benefits, and pay for it by deferring – not reneging on – $200 million in oil tax credits to the wealthiest corporations in the Earth’s history. I introduced that deferral on the House floor today; it was voted down on strictly partisan lines.
I will continue to stand up for these critical issues no matter where the legislature goes, or how long it takes.
There’s been precious little talk between the House Republican majority and the Democratic and Independent Caucus. We’re ready to negotiate. We have been all along, but they’re talking to everyone but us.
This is bigger than this year’s budget. We’re grappling with bigger questions: What kind of want Alaska do we want? What kind of Alaskans are we?
You’ve told me exactly what kind of Alaskans we should be.
You think we should honor our commitments and keep our promises, no matter how hard that might be.
You want us to plan and prepare for a strong future by providing our kids the best education possible.
You want us to invest wisely and be smart with our collectively held resources, whether oil in the ground or money in the bank.
You think we should help each other out.
You want us to work together for Alaska.
We all share those values. They describe Alaskans. Not political ideologues. Not partisans. Alaskans.
I’ve received thousands of e-mails, phone calls, and letters recently. I appreciate every one of them. Thank you for your support, comments, and participation in the process. Your voices encourage legislators to do the right thing.
Keep the pressure on. Tell the Republican majority to negotiate with us.
When the other side is ready to come to the table and work together with us as Alaskans, we’ll be there.
We’ve been there all along.
Rep. Guttenberg addresses the second special session of the Alaska State Legislature at the Anchorage Legislative Information Office
Thank you for reading and please feel free to call my office and share your ideas.