Alaska’s Economy Must be Protected and Vital Services Delivered Despite Troubling Fiscal Challenges

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 9, 2015

ANCHORAGE – Today, Alaska Governor Bill Walker unveiled an ambitious budget plan called “The New Sustainable Alaska Plan” that shifts much of the burden of paying for state government from the oil and gas industry onto the backs of hard-working, average Alaskans.  The Governor’s proposal includes fundamental changes to how vital state services in Alaska are funded including new or increased taxes on income, fishing, mining, tourism, alcohol, tobacco, and motor fuel.  The Governor’s proposal also makes drastic cuts to vital early education opportunities in Alaska and would result in significantly reduced Permanent Fund Dividends.  The 13 members of the Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition thank Governor Walker for his leadership and the public process used to come up with the proposed budget plan but will insist that every proposed change be thoroughly vetted by the Alaska Legislature.

“We’re going to carefully evaluate the Governor’s budget proposal with the goal of finding solutions that will do the most good and cause the least harm to hard-working Alaskans.  In many ways Governor Walker’s proposal misses the mark,” said Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition Leader Representative Chris Tuck (D-Anchorage).  “Our troubling fiscal situation was not caused by low-income Alaskans, working families, and small-business owners but today’s budget proposal shifts a large share of the burden of responding to the fiscal situation squarely on their shoulders.”

The Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition is a non-binding caucus, which means each member is free to vote their conscience on any piece of legislation.  The coalition does not bind members vote in a block for a budget bill as is done in the Republican-led Majority Caucuses.

“Governor Walker and his team have done a tremendous job in engaging the residents of Alaska in the ongoing conversation about how to address the fiscal challenges facing us all from the sudden drop in oil prices and the previous Governor’s broken promises of increased oil production,” said House Finance Committee member Rep. David Guttenberg (D-Fairbanks).  “Governor Walker’s budget proposal is a responsible approach but it may not be the best approach for Alaskans.  That has yet to be determined.”

Governor Walker’s budget proposal will be officially introduced when the Second Session of the 29th Alaska Legislature begins on January 19.  At that point the budget will be referred to the Finance Committees in the Alaska House and Senate.

“I congratulate the Governor for not ignoring our fiscal situation just because it’s politically risky to do so.  I firmly believe that a solution can be reached if lawmakers and all Alaskans put aside politics and come together as Alaskans,” said freshman lawmaker Rep. Dan Ortiz (I-Ketchikan).  “To say yes or no to all or some of the Governor’s budget proposal at this time would be premature because we have not had time to thoroughly study the impacts.” 

The Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition is encouraging the citizens of Alaska to actively participate in the legislative process to develop a budget, and to freely express their thoughts to lawmakers.

“This may very well be one of the most significant budgets in Alaska’s history due to the scope of the funding shortfall and some of the options being considered by the administration and lawmakers,” said Minority Whip Rep. Max Gruenberg, the most senior member of the Alaska House of Representatives.  “The only way the decisions made by the legislature and the Governor will work is if they are supported by a majority of Alaskans.  That demands that Alaskans pay attention and participate in the legislative process.”

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