Here is a sampling of Alaska editorials:
Sept. 1, 2017
Ketchikan Daily News: Worth a shot
News that Gov. Bill Walker will call the Alaska Legislature into its fourth special session of 2017 in late October prompts several reactions.
One is a rather awed admiration of the governor’s dogged efforts to prod the Legislature into action regarding the State of Alaska’s revenue situation.
The state has been burning through it savings since 2014 when prices of oil - the main revenue source for Alaska’s government - plunged and never recovered. Although long-term forecasts suggest oil prices will stay low well into the future, the Legislature has yet to approve a fiscal plan to slow the savings burn or retain government services at anything close to current levels once the regular savings accounts actually do run dry.
Despite the governor’s admirable effort in providing the Legislature with extra opportunities to address the issue before the 2018 election year, news of a fourth special session evokes images of Don Quixote tilting at windmills or Sisyphus rolling boulders uphill. Try as he might to spark legislative action, Walker seems locked in an impossible task. This Legislature doesn’t seem likely to reach a revenue deal until the regular savings are gone, its options have evaporated and the wolves are clawing through the Capitol door.
So, pondering the potential of a futile special session in October doesn’t prompt cheerful thoughts. Why spend more time, money and effort on trying to accomplish something that’s probably not going to happen?
Because there’s a slight chance it could. Perhaps the Legislature’s government cutters, tax proposers, oil-credit changers, Alaska Permanent Fund reformers and what-me-worry?-ers can come up with a solution.
Not likely, but still in the realm of the possible. We’re with Walker in thinking it’s worth a shot.
Sept. 3, 2017
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: A fourth, and necessary, special session for Alaska legislators
Gov. Bill Walker apparently is going to call the Alaska Legislature into its fourth special session of the year, with the session scheduled for late October. The subject once again will be what to do about the state’s fundamental budget problem, which resulted in a nearly $3 billion deficit this year and is expected to result in more of the same in the coming years due generally to lower oil production and oil prices.
The governor gets an “A+” grade for persistence in badgering the Legislature.
Neither legislators nor the rest of the Alaska population knows yet what ideas the governor will be putting forward for this next special session. That will come when he issues the special session proclamation, expected later this month.
But the governor has in the past proposed a restructuring of the $60 billion Alaska Permanent Fund to allow its earnings to provide a stable funding source for the operation of state government while also providing a steady - and secure - annual dividend to residents. He supported ending the oil and gas tax credit system to save the state money; the Legislature eventually approved a bill ending the incentive program.
He has stated the need for a personal income tax or state sales tax and for further budget cuts.
There seems to be agreement among a sufficient number of legislators in the House and Senate for the permanent fund proposal, but the Democrat-led House majority conditioned its support for the permanent fund plan on approval by the Republican-led Senate of both an income tax and the ending of the oil tax credits. Senate leaders rejected the idea.
On the matter of budget-cutting, the cry of “Government is too big” can be heard now and again in the capital and on the street.
Gov. Walker noted, when signing this year’s operating budget at the end of June, that state spending for departments was cut $145 million from the prior year and that total state spending on the operating budget has been cut 27 percent over three years and 44 percent over five years. People are starting to notice some of the reductions in services.
Alaskans need to be considering what they want from their government. Take a look at the University of Alaska, for example. It’s cutting programs and people. Is that what we want, especially here in Fairbanks, home to the university administration, the Fairbanks campus, and numerous internationally renowned research institutions?
And take a look at the local governments. The state is providing much less in annual revenue sharing this year and is expected to drop it entirely next year. The Fairbanks City Council has put a property tax increase on the Oct. 3 ballot to raise revenue specifically to offset the exact amount of the state reduction.
And so here we are once again, urging some action out of our elected officials. After a regular session and three special sessions, Alaska remains without a long-term financial plan and continues chewing through its rapidly depleting savings.
A fourth special session gives legislators one more opportunity to do what should have already been done. And it may be the last and best opportunity - next year is an election year, and history shows that elected officials prefer to make big decisions, if they have to make them, as far from election day as possible.
In the heat of debate it might be suggested that some of the possible solutions, like the permanent fund proposal, be put to a public vote. They shouldn’t be.
We send people to Juneau to make the decisions for us, big and small. We listen to their campaign commercials and stump speeches in which they proclaim their ideas for solving the financial puzzle. These legislators have ready access to information and experts not easily available, if available at all, to the rest of us.
We send them to the capital to do the hard work, not to punt it back to us.
We also want legislators to know this going into the next special session: This is not a time to be penned in by ideology, to win at all costs over the opposing side. Doing so risks turning our state into a loser.
Republican Senate President Pete Kelly, Democratic House Speaker Bryce Edgmon and independent Gov. Walker will each need to show exceptional leadership in this critical moment. And leadership means being willing to compromise and to work together.
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