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State must look ahead, act on budget plan now

Voices Of The Peninsula

Posted: Friday, April 23, 2004

I was born and raised in Alaska and have a varied work background that includes oil field worker, truck driver and home builder. Since 1985, I've been in the real estate business full time. I also have spent a good deal of my life being involved on various boards and in municipal and state government.

While it is easy to offer an opinion of others and to look back at what could or should have been done or said, it is way past time for this state to begin moving forward into the 21st century.

The political reality in this state is a shame, to say the least; the blame game and partisanship in our legislative process does not in any way lend itself to allow this great state to move forward.

To get right to the issue, the Alaska Permanent Fund, while well intentioned as a rainy day account and while giving Alaskans some residual annual participation, has held this state hostage and continues to do so.

While it is true enough that there is excess in the budgetary process (any budgetary process) and that millions have been funneled to capital projects around this state, there have been "deals" for votes to move the process in other words, to adjourn every May, for the Legislature to get out of Juneau!

Another not recognized fact is that over the years the Legislature has put in excess of $7 billion of oil revenues to the corpus of the permanent fund that we are saving.

I would like someone to tell me who we are saving the corpus for.

Our state's senior population is aging and passing away, and what have they gotten for their years of service?

Where and what is the plan for a future Alaska?

We can say truthfully, there is none.

Why?

Politics, that's why!

It is either an election year or partisanship that is holding this state from developing!

The corpus of the permanent fund should have been used all along to develop roads, energy and educational opportunities. It should have been used to allow private sector industry to develop and grow and employ Alaskans, as well as attract new industry and resource development opportunities. All the while, having the Constitutional Budget Reserve Fund for balancing the budget some years and having just enough in the corpus of the fund to keep Wall Street happy so as to allow bonding opportunities if need be!

The way it is today the other 49 states think we're the laughing stock, and we make the job harder for our congressional delegation by not having a plan or even being able to balance our own state budget. Yes, they have all brought home funds for Alaska!

But one in particular, being in the positions he has held, has created a government economy within this state that will unfortunately end one day. Then, what does Alaska do for funding to keep it going, further adding to our so-called budget problems?

I'm not writing this and telling you I have the solution, but while serving Alaska in Juneau, we put together a fiscal policy bipartisan group and, working with the then governor and his staff, came up with a starting place a plan, if you will, to move the state forward, creating opportunity.

This state's seniors are moving to warmer climates, or at least wintering there, and a good share of our young people are being educated elsewhere, not to return as there is not the opportunity in Alaska that there is elsewhere, and there could be here! We are not open for business!

While there are some positive things happening, they are seasonal, short lived or extremely long-term paybacks.

We Alaskans had better be putting together a plan and acting on that plan, not shelving it as most are.

We must look forward not backward.

Good planning!

Ken Lancaster, a former mayor of Soldotna, served in the Alaska Legislature from 2000 to 2002.



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