Today is the 101st day of work for the Alaska Legislature in Juneau.
It is the third day of the Legislature’s first special session (there’s a second one coming — just wait) and this third day follows 98 others in the regular session.
Alaska’s voters have said they want the Legislature to finish its work in 90 days or less. There’s a one-word reason why that didn’t happen this year: Compromise. More specifically, a lack of it.
The Democratic-led minority in the Alaska House didn’t compromise last week or on Monday. Rather than vote to balance the state budget by spending from the Constitutional Budget Reserve, it stood firm. Rather than settle for less spending than it wanted, it failed to budge. As a result, we have a budget that funds the state only through late fall.
The Republican-led majority in the Alaska House didn’t compromise last week or on Monday. Rather than offering to restore some funding back to the budget or consider Medicaid expansion, it stood firm. As a result, there was no draw from the budget reserve, and now we have a partial budget.
When the minority didn’t budge, the majority could have taken a different approach. It could have compromised and spent from the earnings reserve of the Alaska Permanent Fund. It doesn’t need the minority’s votes to do that, but the majority feared the backlash. It feared that Alaskans would be angered if it took an unprecedented action to fix an unprecedented budget problem.
And so, it didn’t compromise. It didn’t fix the budget, and we sit here on the 101st day.
It’s no wonder that lawmakers want to take a break. They want to go home for a bit, then try again to finish their budget work. Many lawmakers want to resume work in Anchorage when that break is over.
This newspaper has long stood against any attempt to move Capitol operations out of Juneau. We’ve seen the actions and effects of capital creep too much to act any differently.
But on Wednesday, Gov. Bill Walker offered a compromise. He told lawmakers that if they can pass a full and complete budget, he’ll let them work on Medicaid expansion and Erin’s Law in Anchorage.
Our initial reaction was obvious: No. No way. Never.
How short our memory was. We’re in this situation because a handful of lawmakers had the same reaction when it came to the state’s budget.
And so, we’re willing to compromise. The Capitol will be renovated this summer, and using Centennial Hall as an alternative would have an opportunity cost.
We’re willing to take a gamble, to compromise, and support Gov. Walker’s plan. All we ask is that lawmakers do the same. Agree to more cuts and less spending than you want. Vote to tap the CBR. Spend from the earnings reserve. Any option will be unpopular, but there must be a decision.
Alaskans have denounced the federal government for its inaction, and now this state appears to be on a course through the Potomac River.
Compromise isn’t an expletive. It isn’t a four-letter word. The Alaska Legislature must learn that lesson as much as we have.
— Juneau Empire,