April 6th, 2018
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Fighting for Economic Fairness
Our shared values include fairness and equality. It was with that in mind that I stood up and fought for economic fairness in this year’s budget. We live in the poorest district in Anchorage, with an average income just over $20,000 (Figure 1). We are neighborhoods full of the working poor and those working paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet. Wages haven’t kept up with inflation and housing and health care have outpaced wages. Many of the families in our area live on the edge. This is why I have fought so hard for a fiscal plan that is fair to all Alaskans.
The PFD has a substantial impact on our state’s economy, but also for neighbors in Airport Heights, Mountain View, and Russian Jack. In fact, according the UAA Institute of Social and Economic Research the PFD is what keeps 15,000 to 25,000 Alaskans from living in poverty. Also, we know that a fiscal plan that relies solely on the PFD is the most regressive option and harms working class and low-income Alaskans the most. It has a disproportionate impact on our area where incomes are so low. The PFD can be a game changer for a family trying to get ahead, get a used car to get to work, pay off bills, or save for housing. With so many living paycheck to paycheck the infusion of cash from the PFD can and often is that one opportunity in a year for folks to catch up on bills or get a little ahead.
That’s why this year when it came to a vote on the PFD, I stood up for a full PFD. For two years the legislature has done the easy thing and cut the PFD, but has not done the hard work of crafting a full, fair fiscal plan. In fact, one of my colleagues said on the floor during the debate that the legislature shouldn’t do anything until the PFD is gone. That’s unacceptable!
We know that the PFD isn’t as important to everyone. For some of our neighbors a check of $1,000 or $2,000 just isn’t that meaningful in terms of their annual income. But for thousands of Alaskans in our district and around the state the PFD makes a big difference. Cutting the PFD without any other measure threatens the possibility of having a PFD for the long-term and it places the biggest burden for our fiscal problems on the backs of children, Seniors, and those with the least. We must enact a plan that is fair to all Alaskans!
Pushing for a Fair Fiscal Plan
We’ve known about our deteriorating fiscal situation for years now, starting back while Governor Parnell was in office. Governor Walker highlighted this in 2015 by offering several bills to implement a fiscal plan. He tried again in 2016 with no success. In 2017 the new House Majority Coalition (that I am a member of) took over the House and we offered and passed a full, fair, sustainable fiscal plan. Now in 2018 it’s like Groundhog Day around here as we have the same conversations over and over again. What hasn’t changed is the Senate’s position on our fiscal situation.
I voted to support the budget because we were able to maintain vital services for Alaskans. More than 80 amendments were presented on the House Floor, many of which would have cut too deeply into the safety net the government provides for our most vulnerable citizens - Seniors, children, people with disabilities, single moms and those who have health care needs. Our House Majority Coalition is all that stands between huge cuts to critical services. I did vote for amendments to cut specialty memberships for the legislature and supported efforts to be more efficient with state spending.
$1600 Permanent Fund Dividend
Again, I voted for a full dividend because we must push for a fiscal plan that is fair to all Alaskans. I know how much this financial boost means to families of limited means. Growing up, we had to worry how to make ends meet, and I know first hand how this financial stress takes a toll on families. In the end, I’m proud to have helped increase the dividend to $1600 in this year’s budget as we work toward a long-term solution that maintains and grows the PFD. My vote was needed for the budget and I’m part of this Coalition that is working to create jobs, protect public safety, create a stable fiscal future and maintain the dividend. The budget spends $4.46 billion of the State’s Undesignated General Fund (UGF), and with federal money and the PFD dividends, the budget totals $10.1 billion.
The Senate is still working on the budget so you can still submit your comments!
A few highlights in our budget that we want to keep in the Senate’s version include:
Go Blue Friday Event on Capitol Steps
Raises Awareness for Child Abuse Prevention Month
This year marks the 4th year we’ve sponsored Go Blue Friday, the official color of child abuse prevention, on the first Friday in April! I’m proud to organize this event with my colleagues in the Legislature along with early childhood education advocacy organizations including the Alaska Children’s Trust. We were honored to have the Tlingit and Haida Central Council members with us this year to energize and mobilize people and turn ideas into actions that improve the lives of abused children in our communities.
We rallied in front of the Capitol steps to emphasize the importance of keeping children safe and to recognize the month of April as Child Abuse Prevention Month. Special thanks as well to Representatives Drummond and Gara, and Senator Micciche for their thoughtful comments!
Moms Demand Action Came To Visit
This week we had special visitors come by the office. Representatives from Moms Demand Action came by to express their support for HB 75, my gun violence protective orders bill. It’s exciting how many Alaskans support this life saving bill!
Representative Tarr with Moms Demand Action volunteers who are in support of HB75
From left, Pam Watts, Jason Keedy, Rep. Tarr, Lika Zukin, Jan Caulfield and John Sonin
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions, concerns, or ideas! I love hearing from you!
All my best,
P.S. Summer is coming and we are looking forward to visiting at upcoming community events. Please let us know if there’s an event you’d like us to highlight!