Letters to the Editor

Posted: Monday, February 04, 2002

Budget problems cannot be solved with cuts alone

In his "State of the State" address, the governor discussed his ideas for funding the state budget, many of which were met with healthy criticism. It seems that the governor feels an income tax is the best way for us to address our budget shortfalls, but I disagree.

Whatever measure is considered, none will be pleasant. Some would establish a new tax, others assume that cutting the budget is the only answer, and still others would have us use the earnings from the permanent fund as a temporary stopgap. The harsh reality is that all of these options may have to be part of a long-term fiscal plan to keep Alaska healthy and its economy growing.

As we consider these immediate responses to our fiscal needs, we must also look to the future. We must expand the state economy and invest in the infrastructure necessary to do so. While the economic effect of such investment is not felt immediately, it will help address Alaska's long-range economic development needs.

As I read through the dozens of public opinion messages coming into my office I often see a common sentiment: "Don't touch the dividend and don't create a new tax: CUT THE BUDGET!" While I've supported the Republican Majority's five-year plan that cut $250 million from the state budget, I'm sorry to say that we can't fix the whole problem with more budget cuts.

We have cut many areas of the state budget in the last 10 years and held others to zero growth, but we are still left with a projected $1.2 billion budget deficit. While we must consistently exercise fiscal restraint and streamline state government, I also believe it is important to adequately fund essential services.

Regardless of where you stand on any of these options, I feel it is now most important for all Alaskans to open a real discussion. Only when we get real can we begin to put together a long-term plan of how best to secure Alaska's financial future.

Rep. Jeannette James

House Majority Leader

Rep. Jeannette James represents District 34, which includes the communities of Anderson, Eielson Air Force Base, Healy, North Pole and Salcha. She was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 1992.

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