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|Volume 8: Issue 13
||June 27th, 2016
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Governor Walker is right to call us back on July 11, and he has the tools to help the Legislature focus.
Tool # 1. Get us back to work. Last Sunday Gov. Walker called another special session, because the job’s not done.
Tool # 2. Educate the public. The State of Alaska’s savings accounts are almost empty. The governor compared it to a fuel tank:
And since the governor’s press conference, markets have dropped – along with the price of oil – so our tank is now further down, even closer to empty. We simply cannot wait and hope. We need to be prepared for the future and that means taking action now.
Tool # 3. Veto some expenses. We’ve cut about a billion dollars from the operating budget in the last few years. The capital budget is down even more. I think the cuts in state workers have gone too far already. And whether you agree or disagree, it’s a simple fact: those cuts hurt our region more than any other. The state employees losing their jobs in droves are our neighbors, and they shop at our businesses. If they pack up and leave Alaska, they’re not buying groceries or getting the bathroom remodeled or buying a car, and that costs a lot of private sector jobs.
Still, there are a lot of Alaskans who want spending reduced. I encouraged the governor to reduce what we spend on oil & gas credits. He should start by vetoing HB 247 – and the $430 million or so it would cost this year – which asks the industry to give up only $30-$70 million per year in future subsidies. We’re cutting everything else, so let’s start over on that one.
Tool # 4. Re-focus on revenue and taxes. Nobody likes paying taxes. But I’ll support a reasonable income tax because it helps pay for schools and roads and cops and courts and healthcare and the people who issue the development permits. An income tax charges out of state workers for these services, too. Everyone benefits by sharing in the cost of a well-run state. Every Alaskan will pay when we use Permanent Fund earnings. Outsiders should pay something, too. This isn’t going to be fun, but we need a working government serving Alaskans.
The re-focus is going to take serious face-to-face work. The governor needs his entire cabinet to re-double the work they did last fall talking to Alaskans. He himself needs to sit face-to-face with holdout legislators and hammer out what it takes to get their votes. That should be happening now, before the new special session begins.
Tool # 5. Permanent Fund earnings. I think we should look to the dividend last, but earnings will be part of the solution. Remember that while SB 128 reduced checks to Alaskans $700 million to pay for public services, it would make another $1.4 billion or so available that doesn’t come out of the checks. And we have to remember, we’re burning through our savings at about $440,000 per hour. If we don’t act this year, there’s almost no chance the PFDs will continue more than another year or two. I want to protect them for the long term!
I hope that my colleagues will look long term – beyond the upcoming election cycle – to do the right thing and put financial stability first. Alaska’s future depends on it.
Hammer it out
We Alaskans have enjoyed the benefits of massive oil wealth. And we’ve gotten through tough times before. The wisdom of Hugh Malone, Clark Gruening, Governor Hammond and many others should be celebrated at times like these. They created a fund from 40 years of oil wealth that rivals any in America. That and our Alaskan spirit (along with more oil to be produced) will get us through this rough spot and build a bright future. We get there by looking realistically at the challenge and making sure everyone pulls together.
Please contact my office and share your own thoughts on the best way to do it. We can do it. We have too much to lose if we don’t do it now.
Why is this so important?
I am blessed with children, like so many of you. And you don’t have to be an old guy like me to have grandchildren, but mine are visiting right now. They’re our future and they deserve a strong and healthy Alaska.
|Kudos from Juneau
Thanks to these community members for
helping make Southeast a great place to live!
Gold Rush Days – Juneau Goldrush Days, Inc put on the 26th annual Goldrush Days event with its mining & logging competition, performances, demonstrations, and all kinds of fun for the whole community. It’s a free event and thousands of people turned out. Kudos to the organizers for a great time! (And to the Salvation Army booth for the deep-fried Oreos. MAN were those good!)
Opening it up – Kudos to the National Weather Service Juneau office for (finally) having an open house at the Juneau office. When you think about all the ways we use weather info in Southeast Alaska – aviation, people planning camping trips, storm warnings, flood watches, whether to go out on the water, whether to shovel the snow or wait ‘till it melts, or just the weather app on the phone, it’s pretty amazing. They cover an area the size of Florida, with more complicated weather by far. They had equipment, demonstrations, and science experiments for kids. I hope they do it again next year.
Keep Talking – The Juneau Amateur Radio Club held the open house they do every year at the Hagevig Fire Training Center. Well, really it was a demonstration of the role they play in keeping our region communicating through any emergency. The HAM radio folks have a lot of fun. And if we ever need them, we’ll be darn glad they’re there!
Thanks for reading Legislative Corner. I hope you'll always feel welcome to contact my office, just call, write, or use one of the links in this newsletter.
Alaska State Senator
Web Site: http://alaskasenatedems.com/egan/
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