March 13, 2002 The Voice of the Times says Legislators' detractors are playing politics

Posted: Monday, March 18, 2002

Why do the Republican legislative majority's most vocal foes pretend they cannot begin to fathom why state spending should be reined in before lawmakers set about imposing new taxes or using money from the Permanent Fund to help fund government?

In the view of those who would hope to remake the Legislature into a tax-and-spend body of Democratic nannies, spending should continue unabated while the Legislature concentrates on finding ways to increase the amount of money it can spend.

It's obvious that the first step in formulating a fiscal plan is to hold spending to the absolute minimum before asking Alaskans to dig into their pockets. The notion of continuing to spend at current levels while asking Alaskans to write state government a blank check is enough to take your breath away. Who in their right mind would accept that?

Even the legislative majority's most vociferous antagonists must acknowledge that when taxes are put in place, they will increase; when the Permanent Fund is used, lawmakers will want more. Alaskans know this, and are wary. A recent poll suggests Alaskans want spending cuts put into place. Why is it such a mystery to the Legislature's critics?

You would think the detractors, instead of posturing, would be urging the Democratic administration of Tony Knowles and Fran Ulmer to cooperate with the Legislature to restrain spending, and work with it to find a way to pay for state operations. But nothing could be further from the case.

Instead, it's politics as usual. And there is good reason.

''We want to have an aggressive legislative agenda of proposals we can win on or that put the legislative majority in a box,'' Knowles' chief of staff, David Ramseur, wrote to the administration's commissioners late last year.

And that's the way the game is being played.

Despite end-of-the world rhetoric, has the administration imposed a hiring freeze? No. Did Knowles' commissioners comply when asked by lawmakers to list their most important programs? No. Instead, the administration actually tried to peddle the silly notion that it is the Legislature's job to set priorities within the governor's departments. Has there been even a nod to reduce spending? No. The governor actually wants a $300 million increase.

And now that the Legislature is on its way to making cuts -- without help from the folks who actually spend the money -- we hear lawmakers are cold, mean people trying to make Alaska into a second-rate state. Good grief.

Most people know that if money is short, you logically should control spending and try to increase revenues -- in that order.

But the continuous and nonsensical attacks on the legislative majority are not about logic or solving a problem. They sadly are about the upcoming statewide elections.

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