A few weeks before the governor put forth his now-infamous list of cuts, he asked the Legislature to pass a $400 million tax cut ($100 million/year for four years) for the oil companies. His hope, I believe, was to give the oil companies further reason to drill for more oil in Alaska. Not that they need more reason or more money. The Legislature did not blink, ask questions, or suggest a lower figure. They just passed the bill.
It was not long after that when our governor, via his chief of staff, sent out that list of cuts stating the governor was not going to allow spending to impact the Constitutional Budget Reserve by more than $400 million. Those cuts came to approximately $138 million, of which both Alaska's youth (education) and Alaska's seniors (longevity bonus) were a significant part. Those of you who reviewed the list probably noticed that almost all of the projects being cut were helping groups not particularly strong politically or blessed with highly paid lobbyists to wine and dine our legislators and other government officials.
That $100 million tax cut per year would have gone a long way toward solving that Constitutional Budget Reserve problem. And if that was not enough, how about all that money that Alyeska Pipeline owes the state for over-charges? The fact is, the governor did not have to do what he did to balance the budget.
However, it wasn't entirely the governor's fault. The Legislature passed the oil tax cut and a budget that overrode most of the governor's cuts. The reason that budget passed was because many of the Republican legislators did not want their constituents to know they voted to cut the longevity bonus and/or education. They all were absolutely aware the governor would line-item-veto the proposed budget and under no circumstances, embarrass their Republican governor by calling for a special session to override the vetoes. Personally, I call that cowardly.
Eighty percent of voters in Alaska have no affiliation to any political party.
That means the Democrats and the Republicans combined have less than 20 percent. I think it's time for the majority to let our Legislature and governor know who put them in their office and who can take them out. Maybe the next governor should be unaffiliated. Maybe the people of Alaska should take the same action that the people of California are taking to a governor who does not listen to the wishes of the people represented.
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