The No. 1 problem facing our state is the fiscal gap in excess of $1 billion. Legislators must recognize they are serving at a pivotal point in state history and our future economic prosperity depends on the actions they take in the next three years.
A call for bipartisan cooperation is in order. The majority of Alaskans do not care whether legislators are Republicans or Democrats. We want them to lead and make courageous decisions for our future. We are tired of hearing that nothing will get done this legislative session because it is an election year. We are tired of hearing there is no more room to cut the state budget and the only way to solve the fiscal gap is by raising state taxes. We are tired of hearing that the size of the state government is the problem and that we can solve the fiscal gap solely by cutting the state budget.
We want to hear the cold hard truth: The only way to solve the fiscal gap is to continue to cut the state budget and to increase taxes. The truth, a bitter pill to swallow, necessitated by the fact that the state, in its adolescence, was irresponsible and squandered its oil wealth. It is time to act like adults and balance our budget.
The first step is to get state spending under control and keep it there. Experience shows that state government will spend as much money as is available. Therefore, we urge the House to pass Senate Joint Resolution 23. This bill will give the public the opportunity to amend the State Constitution by lowering the existing spending appropriation limit to approximately a 4 percent annual increase of the current budget levels.
The second step is to continue to make substantial cuts to the state budget. The time has come to place all state services on the table and prioritize them. Essential services like public safety, education and roads need to be adequately funded; nonessential state services need to be eliminated or reduced substantially.
The third step is to impose broad taxes that are fair and equitable. All industries and every citizen in this state should share in the pain and help shoulder the responsibility of balancing the budget. A statewide seasonal sales tax should be imposed so tourists pay their fair share. A head tax should be imposed on the cruise ship industry. An increased fuel tax should be imposed on the transportation industry. An increased alcohol tax should be imposed on the liquor industry; and an income tax should be imposed on individuals and corporations.
We understand the precarious political situation that the Legislature finds itself in because of reapportionment. However, we do not have the luxury to wait until the next session to tackle these problems. If legislators demonstrate leadership, make courageous decisions and speak the truth, we will stand by them come election day.
Blaine D. Gilman