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.