Stay focused on solutions

  • Thursday, December 15, 2016 4:07pm
  • Opinion

Just about a month from now, the Legislature will convene in Juneau. Legislators hopefully will have had the time to digest Gov. Bill Walker’s proposed budget, unveiled Thursday, and will be prepared to find solutions to Alaska’s fiscal crisis.

We are at this point optimistic that a new mix of lawmakers will come to agreement because, quite frankly, we can’t afford the alternative.

During the past year’s marathon legislative session that seemed to bleed right into the campaign season, the state’s financial situation has been made clear: with the drop in the price of oil, state revenue no longer covers state expenses, with a deficit in the neighborhood of $3 billion. For the past two years, the state has been drawing from its savings accounts, primarily the Constitutional Budget Reserve, to cover the gap. Living off our savings is unsustainable, and as Sen. Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna) noted in remarks to the Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce earlier this week, Alaska will run out of money in the next year or so if the Legislature does not act to significantly close the gap.

As part of his budget plan, Gov. Walker will re-introduce the version of the Permanent Fund Protection Act that passed the Senate last session. According to the governor’s office, the bill creates a formula for a draw from the Permanent Fund’s Earnings Reserve Account to pay for government services. Gov. Walker’s budget also includes additional cuts to state government and a motor fuels tax, with the possibility of additional new revenue measures introduced after discussions with legislators — the all-of-the-above approach required to close a gap of $3 billion.

Our central Kenai Peninsula legislators appear focused on the budget issue heading into the session. Sen. Micciche, who will take on a leadership role as Senate Majority Leader, said his goal is to steer that body toward a long-term solution. Reps. Mike Chenault (R-Nikiski) and Gary Knopp (R-Kenai) will find themselves in the minority in the House, but with 18 members, one that should still wield significant clout.

The new House majority caucus, which includes Rep. Paul Seaton (R-Homer) as Finance Committee Co-Chair, has expressed similar goals in addressing the budget deficit with a combination of cuts and new revenue.

We know there will be disagreement on just what the best balance of spending reductions, taxes and use of Permanent Fund earnings might be — in fact, we hope those issues are rigorously debated when lawmakers gavel in on Jan. 17.

But we also know that without a resolution by the end of the session, Alaska faces dire consequences. There is no more road down which we can kick the can. Alaska’s lawmakers know this, and we’re optimistic that the Legislature will stay focused on solutions in the coming months.

More in Opinion

Opinion: The mobs widening America’s divisions

We’ve just been forced to deal with stark disagreements on a daily basis like never before.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Now is not the time to leave Alaskans out in the cold

Now is the perfect time for legislators to get in touch with their constituents and to act in their best interests.

New direction for the Tongass will help grow businesses, a sustainable economy

Now is the time to chart a new course for Southeast’s future.

Anselm Staack (Courtesy Photo)
Opinion: Dunleavy’s fiscally irresponsible and deceptive plan

Constitutions are about broad policy objectives and legal boundaries — not about the day-to-day.

Alaska Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink promotes getting immunized with the flu shot this winter. (Photo courtesy Alaska Department of Health and Social Services)
Immunize when you winterize

An annual flu shot plus the COVID-19 vaccine protects Alaskans and our health care system, too.

(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Dunleavy’s first act as governor was unconstitutional

That’s according to a ruling by Senior U.S. District Judge John Sedwick.

This Aug. 3, 2021, photo shows Juneau International Airport.  The Federal Aviation Administration shared recommendations on Thursday for improving aviation safety in the state. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: How the FAA will improve the margin of aviation safety in Alaska

Alaska depends on aviation more than any other state…

Central Peninsula Hospital is seen in Soldotna on Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Perspective of an educator in a ‘high-risk’ group, part 2

During some of the darkest days of my time in ICU, it was obvious where we all live is a special place.

Lawmakers havereturned to the Alaska State Capitol for a fourth special session. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Revenues should be determined before more PFD spending

The governor believes the dividend drives the entire calculation. Sadly, he has it backwards

Ronnie Leach. (Photo provided)
Point of View: For Domestic Violence Awareness Month, #weareresilient

At the onset of COVID-19, we expanded our services in a way to ensure COVID-19 consciousness.

Rep. Don Young talks during a June 2021 interview with the Empire. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion:Where’s Don Young when America needs him?

Once upon a time, avoiding political controversy was completely out of character for Young.

Peter Zuyus
Voices of the Peninsula: Seniors appreciate vaccination efforts

To those who have worked to encourage vaccination we say: Be proud, you are, in fact, saving lives.