Alaska editorial: Same-sex partner benefits advisory vote a waste of money

Posted: Wednesday, February 14, 2007

This editorial appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

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Sometimes when the bill for services arrives you stare at that piece of paper for awhile, wondering just what you were thinking when you made the purchase.

Alaskans should be feeling that way about their Legislature now.

Gov. Sarah Palin made the supplemental budget request last week to cover the cost of an advisory vote on employment benefits for same-sex partners of state employees.

In this case the cost of giving advice to our elected leaders comes in at $1.2 million.

It's a waste of money.

The question to come before voters in April reads: "Shall the Legislature adopt a proposed amendment to the state Constitution to be considered by the voters at the 2008 general election that would prohibit the state, or a municipality or other subdivision of the state, from providing employment benefits to same-sex partners of public employees and to same-sex partners of public employee retirees."

So, we'll be holding a special election this year to tell the Legislature whether we want them to give us something else to vote on during the general election next year.

The basic question is simply asking Alaskans if they would like to have a choice. Ninety-nine times out of 100, given the option, people will say they want to have a choice.

So we're holding an election on something that we can bet, 10 to one, will pass.

Why would we want to pay $1.2 million for that.

And what does the public gain for this expense. Nothing.

It does give our elected leaders a thing or two, however.

It gives fence-sitting legislators an excuse to avoid stating their position on pursuing this amendment until the 2008 elections. They can simply say they are carrying out the will of the people based on the advisory vote. We don't have to know their position on the issue.

It also gives an advantage to legislators who have stated a position against same-sex benefits. If the people say they want the question before them, well, they very likely are in favor of it, right.

So, we're not only giving legislators an "out," we're already stacking the deck to one side before the 2008 question is even posed.

Somehow the idea of an advisory vote seems the democratic way to go by putting things in the hands of the public, but it works against the public's interest because it allows elected leaders to dodge an issue they may be judged upon come election season and it taints the election season to come.

We vote to elect leaders willing to stand or fall based on their leadership and their positions.

There's no changing course on this special election now, it was approved last fall and the ball is in motion. As it plays out, though, we should keep this in mind the next time the subject comes up.

Advisory votes sound good, but in the end they just cost money and muddy the political waters.

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