The Senate Republicans feel that it’s not time for an income tax. They believe there is more we can draw down from our savings, more cuts ahead to education, seniors, transportation, health care, the university system, services for those with disabilities, etc. When we look at the numbers provided by our non-partisan legislative finance division, one thing is very clear. They say we should not live off our savings, but in fact grow our savings to weather another potential shortfall. And we must make changes, and diversify our economy to provide a stable fiscal future. The House and the Governor have shown political courage in advocating and passing just such a proposal. It is truly unfortunate the Senate Majority did not share the same political courage.
Potential investors are watching our actions very carefully. The inability and unwillingness to stabilize our economy creates greater uncertainty, which is the enemy of investment. Republican Senate Majority members argued that implementing this tax during a recession is unwise and further lengthens the recession. The truth is, any action we take has an impact. The question to ask is which has the least harmful impact, and offers the best chance of closing our deficit and shortening our period of economic hardship. The answer, according to economists and economic research conducted by the Institute of Social and Economic Research at UAA, is that an income tax has the least impact, especially on families. Budget cuts and cuts to the PFD have some of the most significant impacts, harming more people, small businesses, and our economy
TNC or UBER legislation back for another ride: Today the Senate pass HB 132, establishing Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) here in Alaska. The House version made some important improvements to the bill. These include clarifying who would not be allowed to operate as a TNC driver including persons with previous criminal histories of crimes against persons, DUI convictions, or someone on the National Sex Offenders Registry. Also included were provisions establishing a minimum age of 21 for a driver, and restricting vehicles older than 12 years from being used as rideshare vehicles.
There were still some issues regarding local control that gave me pause and that we sought to address through amendments. All of them failed. In the end, I voted for this measure because I could not let “the perfect be the enemy of the good enough” on this issue. I’m excited for Alaskans and visitors to Alaska to have more options for getting around our cities, and for the exciting opportunities for Alaskans to gain new employment opportunities.
Pink slips for state employees will go out on June 1st. I hope we don’t get to that point before we’ve answered some of these vital issues, but the differences between the House Majority’s comprehensive fiscal plan and the Senate Republicans’ lack thereof, means there is still a lot of work to be done.
In all the gloom and doom, I still have hope that we will find a way out of this quagmire. I believe there is a path. More on this later as things develop. Someday, when we get home, I’ll be able to tell the whole story.
I’m Berta and I’m listening,