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Last year I tuned in for the first time to the testimony offered by Alaskans throughout the state on the proposed budget. Overwhelmingly people were opposed to cuts in road maintenance, state parks, mental health services, education, and public safety. Surprisingly, over and over again people expressed that they would pay for these important services. I was amazed that at the end of this heartfelt testimony we still ended up with big budget cuts and no fiscal plan.
It is clear that the single most important issue facing our state is the fiscal gap. It is also clear that budget cuts alone will not fix the gap. And, it is abundantly clear in this year's race for Juneau's Senate seat only one candidate is willing to address the fiscal gap - Sen. Kim Elton.
I was impressed with Juneau's delegation for their support of a fiscal plan. While others were unwilling to address the issue, Rep. Hudson, Rep. Kerttula and Sen. Elton made it their top priority. In a Jan. 14 article all three were fearless in laying out options the state must consider, including an income tax.
Rep. Hudson summed it up in an April 23 interview, "The free lunch is over absolutely over... People who hide their head in the sand on this issue are doing the public a disservice."
Sen. Elton understands the fiscal realities facing our state. His opponent clearly does not as she has already taken one of the options for addressing this crisis, taxes, off the table. This is not the time for more uncompromising hardliners in the Senate. It is a time for leaders who will work to construct a long-range fiscal plan to ensure we have strong schools with well-paid teachers, adequate law enforcement, enough social workers in child protection and well-maintained roads and ferries.
Sen. Elton is the person for the job. If the Senate is split 10 to 10 there will be increased room for compromise. Sen. Elton and moderate senators of both parties will have an opportunity to focus the debate on our state's fiscal health. Those who wish to bury their heads in the sand will be sidelined. This election year is a huge opportunity to elect a majority of representatives and senators (and governor) who have the courage to address Alaska's fiscal gap. A vote for Sen. Elton is a vote for a new majority.