Senate Republicans' Budget Balanced on the Backs of Alaska's Kids and Vulnerable
April 7, 2017
Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Senate Republican leadership has repeatedly said of the state budget, “Everything is on the table,” but by the time the Senate’s Operating Budget (SB 57) hit the floor, it became apparent that those words were meaningless.

The Republican Majority’s proposed budget makes dramatic and damaging cuts to:  Pre-K for at-risk children, K-12 public education, efforts to decrease domestic violence and sexual assault, frontline social workers for abused children, public health, the University of Alaska, and - no surprise here - holds harmless oil company subsidies.  Obviously, not everything is on the table, just our children, the poor and sick, victims of sexual assault, our already stretched-thin teachers and social workers, and our university, most of which have already experienced significant cuts.  Meanwhile, there is no consideration of oil tax subsidies for which next year’s bill will be a cool $1.37 BILLION when the state will earn production taxes of just $87 MILLION.  While schools are denied the funding they need, the oil and gas industry rolls along untouched by cuts.  The contrast could not be more stark.

This is a déjà vu moment for us. Solving the budget crisis through deep cuts, and waiting for oil to rebound again and save the day is simply a losing strategy.

Here is what the state has done with the budget in recent years. 
  • Budget cuts of 44% over three years 
  • Drew down savings to cover shortfall, decreasing our savings from $17 billion to $3.5 billion
  • Cut Permanent Fund Dividends to half, or less than half
With passage of yesterday’s budget, the remaining deficit is $2.8 billion and the clock is ticking.

Despite new discoveries in oil, oil production is still projected to decline overall for the next 10 years, which is as far out as they forecast. 

The days of debating new revenue are over. New revenues will take about two years to fully implement. The time to ACT is NOW. 

If we go back to the popular narrative of a household budget, it goes like this. You’ve cut your budget, you’ve used your savings to cover the rest, you’ve held on tight and scraped by hoping to make it through the recession, and you just found out that your primary source of income is set to decline for another 10 years. At this point, what would you do? You could stop buying school supplies for your kids, stop going to the doctor, and sell your car, or you could look for new sources of income. 

The Senate Republican Majority’s budget continues to cut government in all the wrong places, placing most of the burden on the backs of children and families. It places its bets on oil, despite the negative forecast. 

My caucus and I presented 20 amendments to this budget restoring essential funding, as well as proposing over $300 million in cuts to oil tax credits and unnecessary services. 

After hours of debate, I voted no on this budget, because the Senate Republican Majority is choosing to balance the budget on the backs of kids, public health, foster kids, veterans, and working families. We need to think about our future as a state. We need a fiscal plan with new revenue that prioritizes education, health, and public safety. Until such a plan makes its way to the Senate, I cannot support it. 

I'm Berta and I'm still listening,

CONTACT ME
907-269-0174
Sen.Berta.Gardner@akleg.gov

Governor's Office
Gov.Alaska.gov
LtGov.Alaska.gov