FEBRUARY 20, 2017
8 Budget Meetings, 1 Budget Survey, and
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I just want to take a moment to review where we’ve been and where we are now regarding the budget and a fiscal plan. The conversation about the budget and how to get our fiscal house in order is not new. I held my first community meeting in the Fall of 2015 because I knew then we needed to take action. I was pleased with the large crowd in attendance because that told me you all cared and knew we had to take action too. We had Bob Loeffler of ISER bring the Budget Balancing Game and we spent time trying to figure out how to balance the budget ourselves. Options ranged from just using the Permanent Fund to statewide taxes like sales and income taxes or more cuts. The game demonstrated the challenge of finding the right solution.
Following the budget meeting, I held two follow up breakfast meetings prior to heading off to the 2016 session. There we brainstormed more questions about the budget and the different options. My office researched the questions and shared the responses in an e-news that can be read here: http://akhouse.org/tarr/010616_newsletter.htm
Once we came to session, then Senator Ellis and I sent out a budget survey. We were pleased that we received hundreds of responses. You can read the results of the survey here: http://akhouse.org/tarr/042916_newsletter.htm
Meeting number four was our mid-session constituent meeting March 12th to hear more from neighbors about thoughts on our budget and important priorities. Because of technical issues that prevented me from participating in person, I held another meeting, meeting number five, on March 15th.
As session continued, I hosted three additional telephonic meetings so folks could call in and ask questions or get up to date information on the status of budget negotiations and the pieces of a fiscal plan. I’m planning to start sending status updates on the budget and fiscal plan again starting next week and will use the same format to update you on the status of budget and fiscal plan related bills. You can read more about these here: http://akhouse.org/tarr/032516_newsletter.htm
Last summer Special Sessions drug on, but there was an unwillingness to act on the part of the former House Majority. That brings us to where we are today. Today, we have a new House Majority Coalition that came together specifically to address our fiscal challenges. For the first time since I’ve been in the House, the House has offered a Fiscal Plan. The House Majority Coalition that I am a part of has offered a fiscal plan, with four parts to achieve savings and revenue.
We have Anchorage Caucus coming up this Saturday at the Anchorage LIO from 10 am – 12 pm so I hope you’ll attend and share your thoughts. Then, coming up after is our annual constituent meeting on March 25th (please note the new date!) so we can get more feedback from you. Of course, my door is always open and I want to hear from you.
WORKING ON THE BUDGET
I’ve been working to do the things you said in the survey. 93% said reduce oil tax credits. As the House Resources Co-Chair I am working very hard to reform our broken oil and gas tax system. I hope you’ll follow our work on House Bill 111, with hearings all this week and likely next week too. You can watch the hearings here or follow the bill online here
71% said efficiency cuts with new revenues. That’s why I’m supporting the strategic cuts offered in Governor Walker’s budget and House Bill 115, that will protect the dividend and institute a small income tax, 15% of your federal tax. Because the federal income tax is progressive, this model protects lower income Alaskans. Our area is a moderate to low income area so having a plan that doesn’t place the biggest burden on the lowest income Alaskans is very important to me.
Let me be clear. If there is not an income tax then the alternative option is what the Senate Republican Majority passed last year, which is a PFD only plan. A PFD only plan would hit moderate to low income families the hardest and in the end they would end up paying a much higher percentage of their income to support state government while the wealthiest Alaskans pay very little. A report commissioned by Rasmuson Foundation details this disparity. Page 8 discusses how the PFD only plan amounts to a 10% income reduction on the lowest income Alaskans while only amounting to a 1.3% reduction to the top 20% of wage earners. Read the entire report here: