It has been a tough year, and it’s about to get uglier. We are facing down a billion-dollar deficit, and this time our savings accounts are empty. Our only hope of getting out of this mess without massive taxes or draining the permanent fund is by electing responsible conservative leadership.
Fiscal responsibility starts with being honest about the numbers. From what I can tell, there’s only one Republican running in primary who is willing to do that: Gary Knopp.
Gary’s opponents are running on the singular platform of the PFD. But they don’t usually talk about what that means for working Alaskans (massive taxes).
Let’s be clear about the facts: With a PFD like the one we got this year, the budget deficit is around $1.3 billion. With PFD calculated by the old statutory formula, the deficit goes up to $2.3 billion.
To put that in perspective, all of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed cuts only added up to $800 million. Let’s pretend that somehow all of those cuts go through, that would still leave us with a $1.2 billion problem. Another way to look at it: even if we fired every single state employee, we would still not be able to pay a multi-thousand dollar PFD and balance the budget.
There’s something fundamentally dishonest about talking about boosting PFD payments and not talking about how to make it possible. Doing what Gary’s opponents promise would require either massive taxes or spending down the permanent fund. When pushed in interviews, both of Gary’s opponents have admitted that their PFD plans would have to be paid for by new taxes. At other times, they say they oppose taxes. The promises don’t add up. Just saying you’re against deficits doesn’t make deficits go away, and just saying you’re a PFD protector does not actually protect the PFD without a real plan to solve the fiscal crisis.
Gary tells it like it is. He knows that to truly protect the PFD, it must be an amount we can afford. He believes the permanent fund should be permanent, and recognizes that we all get more money in the long run if the permanent fund keeps growing.
And unlike his opponents, Gary has made it extremely clear that he opposes taxing hardworking Alaskans only to let state administrators take some off the top then pay those dollars back out in supersized PFDs. I agree — that makes no sense.
I was as skeptical as anyone when Gary joined the bipartisan coalition. But he has proven himself to be a strong defender of the district and stayed true to his values. I do not agree with him on everything. But he has convinced me that whether it’s a broken caucus or a growing budget deficit, he will be honest about the situation, and do what needs to be done to solve the problem. I’ll take that over empty promises any day.
Blaine Gilman is an attorney, past president of the KPB Assembly and lifelong Republican living in Kenai.
• Blaine Gilman is an attorney, past president of the KPB Assembly and lifelong Republican living in Kenai.