We are quickly entering the election season here in Alaska.
We will be electing local, state and federal officials to represent our interests. Unfortunately, most of you will do little, or no, homework regarding the candidates. The people running for these offices know this, and will be taking full advantage of the situation. They will tell you anything you want to hear in order to get your vote. Truth is not mandated or required from them.
At the State of Alaska level, they are already spewing their “elect me mantra.” I have heard several of them promise Alaskan’s the moon. “I will get tough on crime, return your full dividend to you, not allow any new taxes, and increase public safety.”
Not one of them has told us how they will do this, let alone told us how they plan to fix the massive budgetary shortfall. Instead, they have spent billions of dollars from the permanent fund dividend earnings account to kick the can down the road and do NOTHING to solve the massive budgetary shortfall.
Let’s take a look at their promises in depth.
State of Alaska Legislators have already made several millions of dollars in cuts to the State of Alaska budget. They cut primary and secondary education, ensuring larger classrooms, fewer teachers, and we are experiencing higher drop-out rates. (This will at some point be visible in the crime statistics.)
They have made cuts to public safety. Closing State Trooper posts, leaving trooper positions vacant, reduced funding for search and rescue, and reduced trooper staffing is making a substantial negative impact on the rate of crime in Alaska. They have made cuts that have reduced criminal prosecutors and judges in the court system — but in their opinion this has not impacted crime or public safety.
They have made cuts to the State of Alaska Highway Department, which has reduced highway maintenance (increasing wear and tear on our vehicles) and reduced plowing in the winter. The reduced plowing definitely becomes a public safety hazard when vehicles are damaged and people are injured. Since they, the legislators, have already made these cuts, how much more are they going to cut to save enough money to restore the dividend.
Voters do your homework. Ask every candidate how they plan to finance reducing crime? How do they plan to fund and increase public safety? How do they plan to finance critical infrastructure? How do they plan to replace the current funding obtained from Dividend earnings? If they are not going to raise any taxes, where will the money come from, and how will they replace the lost PFD earnings back to what would have been there had they not appropriated the money?
How do we handle the inequality of payment for services in Alaska? How many people who work in the oil industry do not live in Alaska and pay absolutely nothing for Alaska services? How may people in the commercial fishing industry make huge profits from Alaska resources and pay NOTHING for any of the services we are paying for? How many in the mining industry are doing the same? Why are the judges and court system reducing and/or eliminating fines and fees for people who are found guilty of crimes when the State of Alaska needs money?
If we, the citizens of Alaska want to have reduced crime we need police to do that, fully staffed courts and prosecutors to prosecute the criminals, sufficient judges to sentence them, and jails or prisons to house them. Cuts in these budgets is counterproductive. If we want public safety, someone, hopefully everyone, needs to pay for these services. Good roads and plowed roads are also essential services for most of us.
Ask every candidate how they will finance and fund their promises. Ask every candidate how we can hold them accountable for their actions/inactions. We the People are the basis for government — don’t ever forget it. The “professional” politicians would like to think they know what is best for us. I actually had one state senator tell me that after 38 years as a public servant I knew nothing of what the people want.
Be very vocal in telling candidates what you want, and what the repercussions will be if your wishes are not followed. Every vote, from every voter, does count. Just do your homework and let the candidates know you are watching.
— Len A. Malmquist, Soldotna