Alaskans should let legislators know what's on their minds

Posted: Monday, May 05, 2003

A balanced budget, protecting the permanent fund, full funding for education, roads and law enforcement?

The state operating budget is set to pass at about $2.3 billion. Alaska has the money to cover a budget of that size. The problem will come in the next few weeks as miscellaneous spending bills (the pork) start going through the Legislature. Capital projects, grants, and other give-a-ways will push the total budget well over the $2.3 billion level. This discretionary spending will push the budget into a deficit or over spending situation

There have been 16 pieces of legislation introduced, 15 of which want to use the permanent fund for state government or change the eligibility requirements. Is the public demanding these raids on the permanent fund? Did the public demand that permanent fund dividends not be given to poor people who can't afford automobile insurance? Did the public demand additional loopholes to qualify in absence? The answer is no! These changes have been proposed for political reasons only, not to benefit the public.

After being elected on a platform vowing to protect the permanent fund, it seems the majority of legislation introduced raids the permanent fund without a vote of the people. Only House Joint Resolution 3 will save the fund for future Alaskans, by putting permanent fund earnings in the Constitution. HJR 3 is being held hostage in committee, and only public pressure will force it out.

For years the K through 12 education formula has been stagnant. This formula never did really work. On the other hand, the University of Alaska has requested and been granted millions more than their fair share. The University of Alaska is one of the largest land owners in the state. It has not used its land bank to finance the university, because it's easier to get money from the Legislature.

K-12 schools do not have that resource, and must rely on the Legislature and local municipalities for funding. The Legislature must shift its limited resources into K-12 funding, and let the University of Alaska raise its own money.

The Republican Hall of Shame:

1. Reducing the minimum wage on teens.

2. Allowing remote camp workers to be charged for room and board even if it means being paid less than minimum wage.

3. Approving multiple new fees and taxes with no increase in service, without a balanced budget or long-range fiscal plan.

4. Raiding the permanent fund and earnings reserve account (why reduce payments to the earnings reserve account with new resources coming on line: NPR, ANWR, natural gas and untold mineral deposits).

5. Attempting to close or change the Alaska Public Offices Commission, when the public demands keeping the regulations in place.

6. Changing the already difficult petition process.

7. Resurrecting the private prison bill (we build it and pay someone from out of state to run it for us); every community where it was considered voted it down. Because of powerful, well-financed lobbyists, it keeps coming back.

Contact legislators today and tell them what you think of their actions (or inactions). Only you can make a difference in how this finally sorts out. Don't just complain about what's going on, do something about it!

Malcolm McBride

Kenai



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