When Gov. Bill Walker announced his veto of a portion of the funds allocated for Alaska Permanent Fund dividend payouts Monday, the outrage was swift and strong.
But where was that outrage last month, when the Legislature passed a state operating budget funded almost entirely by a draw on the state’s Constitutional Budget Reserve? Shouldn’t draining the state’s savings account have sparked a similar level of outrage, if not more so? For all the complaints we hear about the federal government saddling future generations with trillions in debt, you’d think the people of Alaska would be more critical of the lack of foresight that seems to be driving policy decisions — and more supportive of efforts to avoid draining the state’s reserves.
The preamble to the Alaska Constitution says it best: “We the people of Alaska, grateful to God and to those who founded our nation and pioneered this great land, in order to secure and transmit to succeeding generations our heritage of political, civil, and religious liberty within the Union of States, do ordain and establish this constitution for the State of Alaska.”
Alaskans seem to be more focused on securing things for ourselves right now, and have forgotten about transmitting those blessings — including a financially stable state government — to future generations.
For more than a year, we have known that the state’s fiscal situation is going to have an impact on every Alaska resident. Apparently, we didn’t really believe it. Yes, there was some outcry when roads weren’t plowed as fast as they have been in the past, but for the most part, Alaskans have proceeded as though it’s just business as usual.
Gov. Walker has taken steps he views as necessary to preserve the state’s savings for as long as possible. While we don’t always agree with his methods and would disagree with some of his veto decisions, we have yet to see another comprehensive fiscal plan that looks more than a year down the road.
The ball is now in the Legislature’s court, specifically the House of Representatives, where the plan for use of permanent fund earnings passed by the Senate died in the finance committee. Gov. Walker has called lawmakers into another special session, set to start July 11. They can enact a revenue plan, they can override the governor’s vetoes, or they can leave the whole thing as is for the next Legislature to deal with — when Alaska will have an even bigger problem and even fewer options available to deal with it.
Wouldn’t that be outrageous?