Time to let some air out of the political football

  • Saturday, August 22, 2015 5:27pm
  • Opinion

In the ongoing dispute between the governor and the Legislature over expansion of Medicaid, is it possible that both sides have a valid point?

This week, the Legislative Council voted to file suit against Gov. Bill Walker to block his proposed expansion of the health care program that finances coverage for low-income Alaskans.

The Legislative Council’s action comes in response to Walker’s decision to accept federal funds and expand the program without the Legislature’s approval. The administration argues it doesn’t need the Legislature to sign off on spending federal dollars; members of the Legislature counter that their approval is required to expand the program.

Both sides appear to have good reasoning for their course of action; it will now be up to the courts to determine which side is more right than the other.

Meanwhile, everyday Alaskans are left in the lurch. It’s Tom Brady vs. Roger Goodell, only with significant real-life consequences.

The Medicaid debate has been just one of many bones of contention between the Legislature and the governor since Walker took office. Walker has taken a his way or the highway approach to governing, and the spirit of compromise has been in short supply in the Capitol, both toward the administration and between lawmakers themselves.

All this comes at a time when Alaska faces unprecedented challenges and fiscal uncertainty. In fact, in this week Standard and Poor’s lowered the state’s bond rating outlook from “stable” to “negative” based in part on the “contentious” legislative session and ensuing special sessions.

It remains to be seen whether our elected leaders can figure out how to let some of the air out of the political football and work together moving forward. Alaska’s problems aren’t getting any better, and solutions are going to require a major rethinking of how Alaskans pay for government. That seems a lot to hope for in the current political environment.

What is certain is that Alaska cannot afford three more years of antagonism, bickering and legal action between legislators and the governor.

More in Opinion

Gov. Mike Dunleavy discusses his veto of a wide-ranging education bill during a press conference March 16 at the Alaska State Capitol. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Governor, please pay more attention to Alaskans

Our governor has been a busy guy on big issues.

A roll of “I voted” stickers sit at the Alaska Division of Elections office in Juneau in 2022. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Strengthening democracy: Native vote partners to boost voter registration

GOTNV and VPC are partnering to send over 4,000 voter registration applications this month to addresses and P.O. boxes all over Alaska

Priya Helweg is the acting regional director and executive officer for the Region 10 Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
Happy Pride Month

This month is dedicated to acknowledging and uplifting the voices and experiences of the LGBTQI+ community

Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times
Former President Donald Trump arrives at Trump Tower after he was found guilty of all counts in his criminal trial in New York on May 30.
Opinion: Trump’s new fixers

Fixers from Alaska and elsewhere step in after guilty verdict

Ballot booths are set up inside Kenai City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Perspective from an election worker

Here is what I know about our Kenai Peninsula Borough election system

Apayauq Reitan, the first transgender woman to participate in the Iditarod, tells the House Education Committee on March 30, 2023, why she opposes a bill restricting transgender rights. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: The imaginary transgender sports crisis

House Bill 183 is a right-wing solution to a problem that doesn’t exist now and never will.

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Session ends with budget, dividend and bills passed

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

The Alaska State Capitol. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Listen to PAs; support Senate Bill 115: Modernizing PA Practice in Alaska

Health care is rapidly evolving, demanding a more flexible and responsive system

Mount Redoubt can be seen across Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file photo)
Opinion: Hilcorp Alaska: Powering Southcentral Alaska — past, present and future

Hilcorp Alaska has and will continue to fully develop our Cook Inlet basin leasehold

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024 (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Collegiality matters

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Juneau Empire file photo
Larry Persily.
Opinion: Alaska might as well embrace the past

The governor, legislators, municipal officials and business leaders are worried that the Railbelt will run short of natural gas before the end of the decade