Dear Neighbors & Friends,
I wish I were writing to you from Anchorage with our work here in Juneau completed and some certainty to the outcome. I’m sorry that isn’t the case today. The press coverage has been extensive, but let me try and walk you through the remaining issues all being weighted down by the disagreement over the size of the PFD.
EMAILS FROM ACROSS THE STATE
I love hearing from constituents and Alaskans across the state. To say I’ve been overwhelmed by the response would be an understatement. I’ve never seen anything like this in terms of response from across the state representing all views across the political spectrum. I love the kind of engagement we are seeing; I just wish it wasn’t under these trying circumstances. It has taken me a while, but I have gone through and read every email that has been sent to my office and tried to respond. While this has been a daunting and overwhelming task, it is what I love to do. My job in representing you is to hear from you, try to engage with as many of you as possible, understand one another’s points of view, and do my best to represent those views. Here is a breakdown of the communication I have received. I know I missed some along the way and as time allows I’ll be going back through and trying to read them and respond, but here is where I am today.
HB 2001, HB 2003, and SB 2002
These are the remaining bills in play. HB 2001 is the operating budget veto overrides and the reverse sweep to restore funds for scholarships, healthcare, etc. SB 2002 is the capital budget, including the full funding that requires a ¾ vote and veto overrides of items the Governor vetoed in the capital budget. This must pass soon to meet other funding deadlines and so Alaska doesn’t lose funding to other states.
HB 2003, a new bill this week, funds an approximate $1605 PFD for this year. This is considered a compromise for some because given our dire circumstances there have been lawmakers pushing a $900 PFD or no PFD at all.
So far the holdout on all of this has been the demand by the Governor for a full, statutory PFD. A small minority of about 7 legislators in the House are the last holdout for the full PFD. As legislators we are in a bind because we have been listening to Alaskans across the state and the overwhelming majority are asking for a reasonable budget and a reasonable PFD. Mathematically for the future of our state this won’t work. You may have seen that Moody’s downgraded us yesterday specifically because overuse of the Permanent Fund is considered bad financial management. There is a constituency that supports a full PFD and that’s a fair request, but in my job as a policy maker when there is disagreement I need to try and represent the majority, in this case that is without a doubt a reasonable budget and a reasonable PFD. I actually thought there was a bigger constituency for a full PFD, but over these last months the communication has been really minimal and it was only once the Governor started spending money on Facebook ads that we started to get some emails. I’ve been so moved by the commitment Alaskans have to our state, to supporting our future, and to supporting vulnerable Alaskans through social safety net programs
What is a major disappointment in this debate over the PFD is it is a false choice because there are other options for revenue that would change this debate. We have the most broken oil tax system we’ve ever had and as a result at this time the state of Alaska earns about $2.50 for every barrel produced. Billions of value are being eroded by overly generous per barrel credits. This needs to be corrected and depending on the change could have a significant impact. Then there are other options that need to be considered in a thoughtful way. I will push against any other measures that are regressive in a nature.
We had a great neighborhood meeting a couple weeks ago when I was able to come. Thank you to the great crowd that attended and all the feedback and ideas. Conversation ranged from oil taxes to the needs for Alaskans with disabilities to the amount of the PFD to the budget concerns. One young person spoke about the need to stop cutting the budget and how their workplace has been impacted by cuts over the years. Many expressed support for overriding vetoes and restoring funds for critical services.
UPCOMING COMMUNITY EVENTS
The Mountain View Community Council will be meeting on August 14th from 5:30pm-7:30pm at the Mountain View Library (120 Bragaw Street). Hope you can make it.
The Airport Heights and Russian Jack Community Councils will resume meetings in September.
There are weekly farmer’s markets this summer at the Fire Island Bakery in Airport Heights. This is a lovely, family-friendly Farmer's Market every Wednesday May through August with live music, rotating artists, local brews, Alaskan purveyors, all while supporting various local non-profits!
The Downtown Anchorage Partnership is putting on a ton of fun and free events this summer.
There are music events, dancing, yoga and much more. Check them out here
Demo Day at Grow North Farm. This looks like a really cool event and fun way to celebrate our local entrepreneurs!
The Mountain View Farmers Market isn’t happening weekly this summer like last summer, but the new Grow North Farm is open with monthly events like this one. I can’t wait to see these new business leaders!
In case you missed the kickoff event, please check out the Anchorage Community Land Trust page to follow along with upcoming events.
P.S. Please keep in touch! Your emails, calls, text, and Facebook messages have been awesome!