My Turn: It's time for new ideas and change

Posted: Thursday, October 24, 2002

Peter Nakamura has it right that fiscal planning should be realistic but he is wrong if he believes the Knowles-Ulmer tax and spend model is working.

We've had eight years under this plan and the impact to salmon sales, lumber and pulp manufacture, and mining has been devastating. It does little good to invent a parachute for state government if we leave the private sector and municipal governments to crash and burn.

I have been helping with the Frank Murkowski for Governor campaign because the Murkowski plan to increase economic activity is the only realistic plan for Alaska. State government cannot long survive a private sector crash. Frank Murkowski understands this economy.

The Knowles-Ulmer administration has been silent on increasing state output because of a fundamental anti-business ideology. It's no coincidence that Knowles-Ulmer people now jumping ship are signing on with environmental organizations. It's no surprise that environmental organizations have targeted commercial fishing.

Proposing larger state budgets than we can afford, and then blaming the Legislature for reducing those budgets and for outspending income has prevented Alaska from making any progress for eight years. If Fran Ulmer had brought an Intel or a Toyota plant to Alaska then her criticism of Frank Murkowski's plans for increased resource development would merit consideration. But Alaska has nothing to show for the past eight years except that we've traded high-wage resource development jobs for low-wage service sector jobs. Therefore the Fran Ulmer income tax makes even less sense today than when she first took office eight years ago.

A realistic plan is one that can be supported by the Legislature. Right now majority legislators who supported the income tax that passed the House and who have not retired or been beaten are rapidly backing away from an income tax. Majority legislators who opposed the income tax are unopposed or are in very easy races. Alaskans mostly elect legislators who oppose an income tax. Proposing an income tax as the only economic solution during a time of economic shrinkage and unwavering legislative opposition is unrealistic and may be misleading.

Minority legislators can stomp their feet and throw tantrums but a governor needs to work with legislative leaders. Fran Ulmer has shown no ability or aptitude for that.

Fran Ulmer has wasted eight years blaming the Legislature. We cannot afford four more years of those same unproductive arguments. Where is the commercial fisherman, lumber sawyer, school teacher, store clerk or miner who is more able to pay an income tax today compared with eight years ago? Can we better support state government now that a rock truck driver has taken a 50 percent cut in pay and drives a tour bus?

Mr. Nakamura and I disagree about whether state government will overspend this year by $1 billion as he says or much less as I predict. But we should be able to agree that it's time for a change. It's time for some new ideas.

We truly need an economic plan that will put Alaskans to work making the high wages that were once associated with Alaska. Regardless of what the FY03 overspending turns out to be, Frank Murkowski's economic plan is the one that will revive Alaska. Please vote for Frank Murkowski.

Tom Boutin of Juneau is a forester who first moved to Alaska 29 years ago.

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