Lack of Common Sense

Posted: Friday, March 15, 2002

Recently, your paper carried an insert under the banner of Common Sense for Alaska. Although Common Sense's Web site lists me as still being on its board of directors, I have not been on that board and have had no association with Common Sense for at least seven years. No one from Common Sense approached me regarding the content of that insert.

I disagree with the tone and much of the substance of two articles in that insert, entitled, "Wanted: Leaders with courage" and "Knowles fiddles while Alaska faces a widening 'fiscal gap.' " Both articles seemed to me to be politically partisan attacks against the Knowles Administration, which are inappropriate for a nonpartisan organization as Common Sense supposedly is.

There is a fiscal gap, and its existence has been well known since Gov. Hickel's term at the beginning of the 1990s, if not before. The effective tools that we have to fix that gap - reduced state spending, broad-based state taxes such as a sales tax or personal income tax and using part of the Permanent Fund's current income to pay for government - were all identified by Gov. Hickel back then, and they are still available now. The fiscal gap remains because only one tool, cutting the budget, has been tried. Moreover, budget cuts alone can't solve the problem. You could fire everyone in state government - the executive branch, the Legislature and the court system - and their salaries and benefits wouldn't be enough to fill the gap.

There is plenty of blame to go around for the fact that the fiscal gap hasn't been fixed. There is also plenty of credit to be shared for the fact that it isn't worse than it might have been. Tagging Gov. Knowles with all the blame for the gap is just as wrong as giving him all the credit that it isn't worse.

Solving the fiscal gap is something that must be done. It will require leadership and cooperation from Alaskans and from all our political parties, and the good news is such leadership already exists among Alaskans and crosses party lines. I would urge Common Sense to participate constructively in solving the fiscal gap, without looking like it is trying to advance any political party over another.

Thomas K. Williams


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