Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, speaks about teacher bonuses during consideration a bill increasing state funds for public education in the Alaska House of Representatives on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, speaks about teacher bonuses during consideration a bill increasing state funds for public education in the Alaska House of Representatives on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Rep. Ben Carpenter: Time to disrupt our legislative process

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Alaska’s government spends twice as much as other states, but its policy performance is abysmal. When national rankings of performance metrics in key social and economic areas are released, we often come close to the bottom. Alaska’s economic growth is the worst in the nation. Employment is second worst in the nation. Over a 10-year period, more than seventy thousand more people have left Alaska than have moved here. Education test scores have been consistently at the bottom, violent crime is high, university four-year graduation is low. We are doing something wrong.

Pouring more money into our problems is not working. Alaska’s spending per capita is the highest in the nation. Our debt per capita is 7th highest. We have the 10th highest welfare dependency and fewer education choice options than the majority of states. Florida spends a quarter of what Alaska does and Florida scores very high on its policy outcomes. If you don’t believe the data, believe the 1.6 million people who have moved to Florida from other states over the last ten years.

We spend a great deal of time in Juneau talking about spending. Well-intentioned people line the halls of the Capitol to tell us that spending more will solve all the state’s problems. We are spending more — far more — than other states for the same services. Spending more has not solved our problems.

What can we do? Alaska’s government needs two systemic types of transformation: policy reform and management reform. We need only to look to other states for efficient and effective policies. Business process experts know how to transform our outdated management systems. I have concluded that neither type of change will happen in Juneau without a disruption. I have two bills that would create such disruption.

H.B. 190, the Alaska Sunset Commission, will help ensure adherence to performance requirements and process improvement in the operation of our state government. The Commission will be made up of management, process, budget, economic, and financial experts from outside of government. The Commission will provide a report to the legislature to continue, discontinue, restructure, or transfer the duties and programs of government entities or provide for a restructuring plan and will submit the legislation for introduction. If the legislature does not act on the Commission’s report, the entity subject of the report will be sunset the following fiscal year.

H.B. 194 changes the way we budget in Alaska to results-based budgeting. H.B. 194 requires the state budget to tie program and financial goals to spending.

The legislature can make policy changes without these disruptions but are having a hard time getting things done! I have two education bills, for example, that will improve the quality of education without spending more money. H.B. 165 increases opportunities for charter schools and correspondence programs. H.B. 382 will require public schools to operate like charter schools. Alaska’s charter public schools are the best in the nation and do not cost more money. Correspondence programs have better outcomes than traditional schools and cost less.

We have tried to solve our problems with more spending. It’s time to disrupt our legislative process in Juneau.

Ben Carpenter, Representative for House District 8, Chairman of the Ways & Means Committee. Contact Rep.Ben.Carpenter@akleg.gov, 907-465-3779, https://bencarpenterpost.com/.

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