Simultaneously, in both Juneau and Washington, D.C., the battle of the budget is being fought.
In many ways, the struggles are vastly different. In Congress, the wrestling match involves trillions of dollars. In the Alaska Legislature, only a few billion are on the table -- in relative terms, peanuts compared with what is being argued on the national scene.
Yet there is one powerful similarity. No matter the size, no matter the issues, crafting a new budget that shaves expenditures from the last one is not easy. In fact, politically speaking, it may be impossible.
On the one hand, President George W. Bush is trying to make good on campaign promises that helped him get elected: reduce taxes, trim unnecessary spending, increase the dollars funding other vital programs, and cut back on the never-ending growth of expensive handouts.
To listen to his Democratic opposition, and if you heed the pontificating of the big newspaper editorialists, the job is impossible. In fact, the president's proposals are cruel -- skinning the hide from needy Americans. In the view of the Washington Post, what the president submitted was ''not a serious budget.''
So much for that, in other words. Let's get back to big spending -- and forget the tax cuts.
In Juneau, it is the Republican-led Legislature that once again is attempting to bring about spending reductions and a sense of fiscal responsibility into the way the state dishes out its dollars.
The reaction from the Big Brother crowd is the same. Every spending cut is viewed as a calamity, every program in place needs to be funded at a higher level, and -- never let us forget -- Alaskans need to start paying an income tax because, well ... everybody else does, and so should we.
Rep. Bill Hudson, in fact, has introduced an income tax bill -- blessed by former Gov. Jay Hammond. Both Hudson and Hammond are Republicans, but they don't represent the views of most of their other GOP colleagues. Both, in fact, are big government guys -- Hammond, because he has always preached in favor of an income tax, and Hudson because he represents Juneau, a town that is nourished by public dollars.
Hudson wants you to send to Juneau from your family's purse an amount equal to 15 percent of your federal taxes. Why? Just because, that's why.
And so the battle goes on. In Juneau, the budget will be resolved in the next three or four weeks because it must be settled before legislative adjournment early next month.
In Washington, the fight will last longer.
Don't be surprised if spending cuts are minimal in both places.
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