Contact my interim office:
201 Katlian St., #103
Sitka, AK 99835
March 6, 2014 (Issue 11)
What are those yahoos in Juneau up to now?
Considering that we're 46 days into the legislative session, it's a fair question.
Like a good story, most legislative sessions have a narrative. Last session's narrative was simple and wholesome: the passage of a multi-billion dollar tax cut for oil companies. And by golly, we got the job done with SB 21, which passed the Senate 11-9, and fulfilled its unfortunate destiny by a vote of 27-12 on the floor of the House of Representatives at 2:07 a.m. in the wee hours of April 14, 2013. (I was among the dozen dissenters.)
Fast forward to 2014. ConocoPhillips just reported $2.3 billion in annual profit from its Alaska operations. BP and ExxonMobil are each suffering in similar fashion. My bleeding heart is practically hemorrhaging with compassion.
Legislative session means upping and moving to Juneau, packing your life into a backpack, a dry bag, and a cardboard box.
Meanwhile, having surrendered billions of dollars of Alaska's oil to BP, Conoco, and Exxon, the State of Alaska is contemplating the meaning of a $2.2 billion deficit.
2014: The Deficit Session
So we're short $2.2 billion. What's the big deal anyway?
It means we're going broke. We're sitting on $16 billion savings, so we're not broke yet. But we will be soon — around 2024, give or take a few years.
What are we going to do?
Sen. Bert Stedman keeps a painting of Custer's Last Stand in his office and periodically annotates it with post-it notes. Labeled in this photo: Gen. Custer as the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act and a federal soldier writhing on the ground in the throes of death as the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam.
Choose your cliché: "tough choices"; "hard decisions"; yadda yadda yadda.
What are the tough choices in real and specific terms? Within the next decade, the legislature needs to:
- slash the state budget (by billions and billions) in a way that would make the Demon Barber of Fleet Street blush;
- reclaim a fair share of the billions of dollars coming from our God-given oil resource on the North Slope;
- dramatically increase oil production;
- raid the $50 billion lying ever so innocently in the Permanent Fund and use the interest — or if we're incredibly short-sighted, the principal — to pay for government;
- establish a statewide income and/or sales tax;
- align both the stars and (perhaps more difficult:) BP, Conoco, and Exxon and build the much ballyhooed $45 billion natural gas pipeline that will generate ~$2 billion in annual royalties and tax revenues; or
- pick some combination of the above.
The end of an era, Rep. Beth Kerttula (D-Juneau) resigns from the Alaska Legislature. Well-wishers, boxes of papers, and of course chocolate cake (pictured) mark her Friday 5 p.m. move-out from the Capitol. She leaves to accept a fellowship at Stanford where she will suffer from inhospitable weather and Rose Bowl heartbreak.
Talk about a buzzkill, huh? It's a menu for the political masochist, although some of those choices are more palatable than others.
The Alaska Daily Show
If AP bulletins aren't doing it for you, Alaska Robotics is producing regular episodes of satirical political coverage straight from the Capital City. So far they've got their first and second episodes produced and available online.
The "beast from Southeast," for the record, professes to be benevolent!
On January 27, Lake Clark recorded a temperature of 62°F. That's the highest temperature recorded anywhere in Alaska in January — ever. The Lower 48 seems to have gotten the opposite treatment:
Juneau weather — particularly the fog — has been funky, too. Don't laugh! I appreciate that "Juneau fog" is the opposite of an oxymoron. But Juneau-ites who've lived here for 60 years say they've never seen fog this bad. For the 90 days of session, Alaska Airlines runs the Alaska equivalent of the Berlin Airlift, shuttling citizens, lobbyists, staffers, legislators, and curious onlookers in and out of the only roadless capital city in the United States.
But when the Mendenhall fog rolls in, and when it lingers for days and even weeks, the planes don't fly and Juneau fills with political refugees. People in the Capitol were muttering that upwards of 1,000 people were stuck in Juneau waiting for flights out, and that hundreds more were stuck in Sitka, Ketchikan, and Seattle waiting for flights in. (Clearly, President Andrew Johnson and Secretary of State Seward got it right by crowning Sitka as Alaska's capital before Juneau swiped it from us in 1906.)
In a shameless maneuver for higher ratings, Gavel-to-Gavel, which normally carries live TV coverage of the legislature, started broadcasting a live feed of the weather at the Juneau Airport (pictured, with the handsome Adam Berg, Chief of Staff for Rep. Bryce Edgmon).
Rep. JKT Media Management
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Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins