Rep. Ben Carpenter facilitates a town hall about a new cold weather shelter in Nikiski on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Rep. Ben Carpenter facilitates a town hall about a new cold weather shelter in Nikiski on Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2021, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Capitol Corner: Rep. Ben Carpenter — Seeking long-term fiscal plans and voting solutions

Peninsula lawmakers report back from Juneau

We hit the ground running during the second session of the 33rd legislature. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee, we made significant progress on key election bills. HB 4 is important to many voters as it repeals the 2020 Ballot Measure 2 which introduced Ranked Choice Voting. While the goal of better elections is a good goal, ballot Measure 2 fell short of reaching that goal. The repeal of Ballot Measure 2 ensures that our voting system remains fair and easy to understand. Also, regarding elections, HB 129 tackles the important issue of bloated voter rolls. By implementing best practices for verifying valid voter status and using multiple databases, this bill cleans up Alaska’s voter rolls. HB 129 improves the integrity of our electoral system and ensures that only eligible citizens are casting a vote.

Another significant accomplishment of the House Judiciary Committee is the passage of a Constitutional Amendment, HJR 7. This amendment holds great importance as it focuses on safeguarding the Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD). If approved by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate, the amendment will be included on the November ballot, alongside the presidential and state elections. The passage of HJR 7 would mark a return to a time before Governor Walker’s veto of a portion of Alaskans’ dividends and the subsequent state Supreme Court ruling in favor of the veto. This amendment ensures that dividends are automatically paid without becoming a subject of annual legislative debate. It is a crucial step towards establishing a long-term fiscal plan for the State of Alaska, a goal that I have been tirelessly fighting for in Juneau.

While there are differing opinions on the budget, having a long-term fiscal plan addresses the need to bring spending and revenue into balance. By using savings, this budget doesn’t do that. This budget continues to highlight the need for a sustainable fiscal structure.

By incentivizing better outcomes and making efficiency standard practice, we can improve government operations and reduce costs overtime. It is crucial to enact a long-term fiscal plan and improve the budget process to break free from volatile oil prices and permanent fund earnings.

To achieve this, we must prioritize spending with real accountability, settling the constant battle over the PFD, stabilize our revenue, and promote economic development. By committing to better long-term stewardship, we can ensure that the best interests of all Alaskans are served.

I will continue to provide updates on the progress towards a long-term fiscal plan in this weekly column.

Contact Ben Carpenter, Representative for House District 8, at Rep.Ben.Carpenter@akleg.gov.

Legislative Committee Membership: https://bencarpenterpost.com/issues/representative-carpenters-committee-membership/

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