Second Special Session Update
Dear Friends, Neighbors, and fellow Fairbanksans:
Happy Fairbanks Solstice! I hope everyone is enjoying the long summer days. And don’t forget about the Midnight Sun baseball game tonight at 10:00 at Growden Memorial Park.
Happy 40th to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline
Was honored to be able to speak at the 40th anniversary of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline yesterday. The pipeline is such an integral part of Alaskan life and has been for over 40 years and will continue to be so for the next 40 hopefully. It stretches from the north to the south, ocean to ocean and is basically the backbone of Alaska. It pumps oil for sure, but much more than that. It was built in just over two years and nine short years after oil was discovered in Prudhoe Bay – what an achievement. For all the people that were involved with the pipeline whether you worked on the initial concept, the engineering, the construction, the maintenance or keeping it filled, a big congrats goes out to all of you.
Ride-Hailing in Alaska
HB 132, the bill that allows ride-hailing companies like Lyft and Uber to operate in Alaska, was signed by the Governor May 15th in Juneau. It’s time to download those apps and take advantage of these expanded transportation options. Ride-hailing in Alaska will keep our streets safer, stimulate the economy, and provide job opportunities for Alaskans who want to earn some extra money. Lyft has already been operating and Uber will be available in Fairbanks today. We welcome other companies to Alaska as well.
Vote to Increase the Size of the PFD
Special session continues in Juneau this week. Last Wednesday on the House Floor, an amendment to the capital budget (SB 23) to increase the amount of next year’s PFD from roughly $1100 to $2100 dollars passed with bi-partisan support 26-14. I voted a resounding “NO” which also had bi-partisan support.
In my opinion, this amendment takes our state in the wrong direction. The restructuring of the PFD as an endowment to help fund state government will not work with $2000 dividends. I support a reduced dividend and a state-wide revenue option that will provide for a sustainable fiscal plan. Ideally, the onerous burden of new revenues should be shared among all Alaskans, out-of-state workers, and businesses profiting from our resources.
Second Special Session Begins
On June 16th, the Governor called the Legislature into a second special session with one priority to consider: the operating budget. Twice this year the House passed operating budgets that protect public education – both were rejected by the Senate. I’ll continue fighting to protect public education and the university in the final operating budget.
If the operating budget passes, the looming government shutdown will be averted, which is my number one priority. But I also believe it is vital that the Legislature enact a long-term fiscal plan before final adjournment. We cannot continue to bilge a leaky boat without first fixing the leak.
The Senate Majority has flatly refused to give consideration to any broad-based revenue measures. The Senate’s plan also includes structural deficits of $500 million into the future. The state budget cannot endure further significant cuts to bridge this gap. We need a comprehensive fiscal plan to increase business confidence and pull Alaska out of this recession. If we don’t pass a fiscal plan, we will continue to have these same fiscal fights year after year and things will just get worse and worse.
I hope that the Senate will agree to some type of revenue policies so that Alaska can get on solid financial footing. At this time I would accept a less than “perfect” revenue plan – any step in the direction of sustainability would be a good thing. We can’t cut the budget much more, and we shouldn’t balance the budget by only reducing PFDs.