Senator Berta Gardner

January 23, 2017

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Serving Midtown, Spenard, and UMed

1500 W Benson Blvd. #220
Anchorage, AK 99503
Phone: 907-269-0155
Call Me: 1-800-331-4930

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Governor Bill Walker
Anchorage Office
550 W. 7th Ave, Ste 1700
Anchorage, AK 99501
(907) 269-7450

Lt. Governor Byron Mallot
Anchorage Office
550 W. 7th Ave, Ste 1700
Anchorage, AK 99501
(907) 269-7460

My First Committee Meeting of the Session

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Sen. Gardner and Rep. Spohnholz (left) address questions about the upcoming session at a UAA panel
Senator Gardner listening to Dan Robinson’s presentation on Alaska’s Economic Trends in the Labor & Commerce committee.

        I agree wholeheartedly with our Governor when he says the time to act was two years ago.  We MUST take care of business now. This week’s overview of our economy in the Labor and Commerce Committee confirmed this for me and I certainly hope it has done so for others.  

         My first committee meeting this session, Senate Labor & Commerce, dove right in to study Alaska’s economic trends. The experts leave no doubt that we are in a recession (i.e., financial distress spread widely over an economy).  The recession will end when economic growth returns, but we will find ourselves at the “new normal” with employment numbers  likely to be at 2010 levels.

         As many know, this isn’t our first rodeo with recession.  This time around there are some significant differences from the traumatic experience of the 1980s, when people were dropping off house keys on the way to the airport.  The population then was generally younger and not entrenched in the state.  Many had come for the pipeline and didn’t have family or history enough to keep them here when things crashed. Additionally, this time around our economy has matured, is about 50% larger, and includes strong industries like fishing, mining, tourism, healthcare, and air cargo.  We have no housing bubble and the size of the permanent fund gives us a cushion.

         I asked if decisive action would have made a difference.

         Absolutely. Dan Robinson, Research Chief for the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development shared that there is “no question that uncertainty has an economic cost.”  When there is a recession, there is lack of confidence in an economy.  The lack of confidence impacts potential investors and businesses of all sort, filtering down through the system, and hurting virtually everyone.

         Dr. Ralph Townsend, Director of the University’s Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) stressed that our job is to define the government we want (what level of child protection, public safety, construction and maintenance, support of children, seniors etc. should we have?) and then determine how to fund it.  He reminds us the permanent fund gives us opportunities and provides a cushion to transition to new revenue, something we absolutely need to do.  Relying on a single resource to fund government has eaten six years of our savings and at the end of this year we will be down to $2 billion.  After that it’s lights out.

         I’m Berta and I’m still listening,

         If you have any questions, please feel free to contact my office.

signed: Berta

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