My Turn: Legislators should accept responsibilities

Posted: Friday, March 08, 2002

The Feb. 24 issue of the Empire contained two very timely pieces. One was front page news entitled, "Panel eyes permafund earnings." The other was located in the editorial section and was entitled, "Quoth the Senate: Nevermore," which is a fine bit of poetic satire put forth by writer Bill McAllister. To Bill's piece I say bravo and well-done. It would be even more humorous if it were not so true and to-the-point.

The front-page article mentions that House State Affairs Chairman John Coghill says he's still reluctant to move forward with any of the proposals to balance the budget until he's satisfied that measures to restrain spending have political momentum. Now, please, tell me what has been going on for the past five years or so. Has not budget-cutting and the reduction of government spending been foremost on the agenda of most citizens of Alaska as well as the Republican majority? This horse may not be dead, but it is certainly terminal.

When in a financial crisis, I could not agree more that a hard look at spending must be an important part of attempting to solve the problem. However, I think we have reached the point where budget restraint, rather than budget-cutting, should be the watchword in regard to balancing the budget. The only way we can cut our way to a balanced budget is to eliminate virtually all government spending, all government entities, all government "entitlements," and eventually, all government, as income continues to decline.

How about having the Legislature meet every other year as they do in Oregon and Nevada? After all, both of these states have more population than we do and they seem to manage. This would help to reduce the state budget and the "need" to move the capital. Somehow it has not been considered, to the best of my knowledge, but why not? It would cut the amount of travel and per diem expenses and reduce the need for legislators to travel.

Sometimes I think that many citizens and some of the legislators of Alaska are willing to do anything to make sure their Permanent Fund dividend remains totally intact and that they do not have to pay any taxes. No matter that citizens of all other states pay taxes; income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, or all of the above. The ironic part of it is that if nothing is done to solve our budget deficit except to cry "no taxes," and "my PFD is sacred," the loss of both the PFD and the Permanent Fund itself are sure to happen.

Rep. Bill Hudson is one legislator who deserves the title "statesman." He is willing to take on the task of fiscal responsibility in a sensible, logical and intelligent manner, and to come up with more than just one answer to our state budget deficit. Bill is true to his party, but even more important, he is true to all of the citizens of Alaska. Sometimes, legislators need to do what they were elected to do, and Bill Hudson is willing to put his political future on the line to do the right thing for all Alaskans.

Legislators sometimes need to direct citizens away from their own indecision and greed and to do what they were elected to do. Not to placate the masses or to promote their own private agenda, but rather to do the right thing for the benefit of and in the best interest of all the people of the state.

Hal Iler is a local businessman and a concerned citizen of Alaska.

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