What others say: Legislative split could focus talks on budget

  • Monday, December 5, 2016 9:22pm
  • Opinion

Come January, it’s going to be a new ballgame in Juneau. The emergence of a Democrat-led majority caucus in the State House will be a pronounced shift from affairs in the last Legislature, in which Republicans led a commanding majority in both chambers. It’s the first time in decades that the House, Senate and governor’s office will be controlled by different factions — a Republican majority in the Senate, a mostly Democratic majority in the House and an independent governor. Given the fact that no one party can dictate affairs, it’s possible that lawmakers will dig in their heels and refuse to budge. But, for the good of the state, they should overcome that impulse and realize that a solution to the state’s budget mess is critical and that it’s the primary issue that their constituents want them to address. It’s time to find common ground.

As it has been the past two years, the chief priority in 2017 will remain the state budget deficit of more than $3 billion. In 2015 and 2016, despite an eagerness to cut the budget, the legislative majority didn’t take meaningful action on state revenue, leaving Gov. Bill Walker in the unenviable position of partially vetoing this year’s Alaska Permanent Fund dividend to slow the rate at which state savings were being depleted. Though the state Senate voted to pass a permanent fund earnings restructuring plan that would have put a big dent in the deficit, the proposal was a non-starter in the House.

Though opponents of the restructuring plan vowed revenge at the polls against state senators who had voted for the permanent fund earnings plan, the election results didn’t indicate their views carried the day. The Alaska Senate remained in the hands of the Republican majority caucus that voted for the plan, while the House saw a shakeup, leaving Democrats and moderate Republicans caucusing together in a new majority. It would be a bridge too far to say that the shifts occurred because of widespread public support for the governor’s budget plan, but it’s more likely that Alaska voters are fed up with the intransigence in the Legislature and the inability to fully address the state’s budget issues.

It would be easy to view the incoming House majority caucus with skepticism. Too often, Alaska Democrats have blamed the Republican majority caucuses for being partisan and inflexible, while displaying that same inflexibility themselves on many issues. For the sake of the state, however, we should give the new majority the benefit of the doubt until they give us reason to believe otherwise — it may well be that years in the minority have made the Democrats not eager to exact revenge for past slights but rather more keen on setting a less-divisive example for how the House can be run.

Time will tell if the new House majority caucus will bring needed change to Juneau or simply more of the same partisan bickering that has ill served Alaska for the past two years in the Legislature. Alaskans should hope for the former, as 2017 is the year when significant revenue reform isn’t just beneficial, it’s necessary to the state’s fiscal health.

— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Dec. 4, 2016

More in Opinion

Jodi Taylor is the board chair for Alaska Policy Forum. (Courtesy photo)
Private school, state reimbursement: family choice

By Jodi Taylor Alaskan parents have a legitimate right to choose the… Continue reading

t
Opinion: It’s time for bold action to protect our fisheries

Our fisheries feed the world and sustain our unique cultures and communities.

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Hard to fill positions?

Paying poverty wages to support staff, secretaries and custodians is unacceptable yet routine behavior by our district

A copy of the State of Alaska Official Ballot for the June 11, 2022, Special Primary Election is photographed on May 2, 2022. (Peninsula Clarion staff)
Choosing a candidate – Who will best represent us in D.C.?

Voters are encouraged to do homework before casting a vote

Tourists watch as one of two cubs belonging to an 18-year-old sow black bear crosses the path between groups of tourists visiting the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center on Wednesday, July 18, 2018. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Tourists have pushed us to critical mass in parts of Juneau

I don’t go to the glacier in the summer now to hike or watch bears.

Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnerships. (logo provided)
Point of View: A few ideas for Mental Health Awareness Month

What are some things you can practice this month and subsequently apply to your life?

Sens. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, left, and Robert Myers, R-North Pole, read through one of 41 amendments submitted to the state’s omnibus budget bill being debate on the floor of the Alaska State Senate on Monday, May 9, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: The Alaska Senate’s foolish gamble

“All these conservative people just spent all our money”

Smoke from the Swan Lake Fire impairs visibility on the Sterling Highway on Aug. 20, 2019. (Photo by Victoria Petersen/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: Alaskans should prepare for wildfire season

Several past large fire seasons followed snowy winters or unusually rainy springs

Alex Koplin is a founding member of Kenai Peninsula Votes. (courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: 1 candidate dined, 47 to go

By Alex Koplin Last month, I wrote a satirical piece for the… Continue reading

The logo of the Homer Trails Alliance.
Point of View: Connecting our community through trails

Homer is booming with housing development and the viability of long-standing trails is threatened