Comprehensive budget plan moves debate forward

  • Saturday, December 12, 2015 4:27pm
  • Opinion

This should give everyone something to talk about.

Gov. Bill Walker this week released his budget plan for the coming fiscal year, and the administration has followed through on its everything-is-on-the-table promise with an all-of-the-above fiscal plan that includes continued cuts, a plan to leverage Alaska Permanent Fund earnings, cuts to oil and gas tax credits, a mix of tax increases and — the item that might grab most Alaskans‚ attention — a state income tax.

Reaction to the governor’s proposal so far has run the gamut. There is enthusiastic support on one end of the spectrum, to a flat out “no way” on the other, with many falling somewhere in between.

The proposal is certain to generate plenty of debate when legislators return to Juneau in January. The state continues to face a multi-billion dollar deficit, and any one measure to reduce spending or increase revenue won’t balance the budget by itself.

The administration has spent the past several months selling this approach to Alaskans, with a conference in June and a series of presentations around the state outlining the state’s fiscal situation.

Now, Gov. Walker will need to sell his plan to state legislators, many of whom approach the governor’s proposals with a healthy skepticism, to say the least.

Moving forward, we hope all Alaskans — those making decisions, and those who will live with the consequences — remember two things.

First, there is no magic bullet to remedy the situation. Oil revenue used to account for about 90 percent of the state’s revenue. But the price of oil continues to drop, and a recovery is not expected for several years. In short, the state needs to act, and changes in how we generate revenue are essential for Alaska’s long-term economic health. A wait-and-see approach is not an option.

But the other thing to remember is that, with healthy savings accounts, we don’t need to panic.

That’s not to say we should drain our budget reserves waiting for a solution. That would simply be irresponsible.

It is to say that if some parts of the all-of-the-above budget proposal are left on the table this year, there is an opportunity to revisit that decision next year. We’re not in an everything-or-else scenario — yet.

We think that putting together a budget package, rather than handling proposals a la carte, is a good idea. Chances are many Alaskans will be more amenable to some ideas, less so to others. A comprehensive proposal, as the governor has put forward, is a the best way to proceed. And let’s be honest — proposing new taxes takes a certain amount of political courage.

Gov. Walker’s proposal lays a good framework to move the budget debate forward. We’re looking forward to that debate.

Of course, doing nothing will quickly put us in a position where we can no longer choose from a range of options, but for the time being, a measured approach and a thorough vetting of all budget proposals represents a reasonable course of action.

More in Opinion

Opinion: Freedom in the classroom sets precedence for the future

We advocate for the adoption of legislation to protect students’ First Amendment rights…

A roll of “I Voted” stickers await voters on Election Day in Alaska. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the prospect of a state constitutional convention. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Election winners, losers and poor losers

Tshibaka and Palin misread Alaskans by thinking Trump’s endorsement all but guaranteed they’d win.

This 1981 photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows an electron micrograph of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, also known as RSV. Children’s hospitals in parts of the country are seeing a distressing surge in RSV, a common respiratory illness that can cause severe breathing problems for babies. Cases fell dramatically two years ago as the pandemic shut down schools, day cares and businesses. Then, with restrictions easing, the summer of 2021 brought an alarming increase in what is normally a fall and winter virus. (CDC via AP)
Alaska Voices: What Alaskans need to know about RSV

By learning more about respiratory illnesses and taking helpful actions, we can all take steps to improve the situation

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Multiplying the power of every local dollar given

Each community foundation is a public charity that focuses on supporting a geographic area by pooling donations to meet community needs

The Homer Public Library as seen on Aug. 18, 2021, in Homer, Alaska. (File photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Point of View: Banning books corrodes diversity and inclusion in our community

Recently, a community member requested that a long list of books be removed from the children’s collection

Peninsula Oilers fans display encouragin signs for Oilers’ pitcher Bryan Woo, Friday, June 28, 2019, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)
Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: Judging judges — balancing the judicial selection process

Alaska’s method of selecting judges can be and should be improved.

Sarah Palin speaks at a July 11 Save America Rally featuring former President Donald Trump at Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The realities of Palin’s political demise

Palin wouldn’t be running for the seat if Rep. Don Young was still alive

Former Democratic state Rep. Beth Kerttula holds up a sign reading “Vote No Con Con,” during a recent rally at the Dimond Courthouse Plaza in Juneau. Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: What can a liberal and conservative agree on? Voting against a constitutional convention

“We disagree on many issues. But we… urge Alaskans to vote against Proposition 1.”

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Down to the wire: Be prepared before you vote

Remember your voice counts and all votes matter

Soldotna City Council member Justin Ruffridge. (Courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: We must refuse to reward ugly political tactics

With our vote we have to show that extremism and dishonesty do not win the day