May 9, 2002 Alaska Newspapers Inc. urges Senate to 'stop planning for a miracle'

Posted: Monday, May 13, 2002

It's time for the Senate to act.

For too long, the conservative Republican majority has taken a shortsighted approach to the affairs of state, pinning all its economic hopes on a single commodity that has grown increasingly scarce.

Though the state budget is losing almost $1 billion a year, and the savings account has only 2 1/2 years of life in it, Senate leaders such as President Rick Halford, R-Chugiak, are still praying for a bailout of new oil revenue.

Earth to Halford and the rest of the Senate leadership: It's not happening.

Remember the ANWR vote that was 17 percent shy of the votes needed for passage? Remember the hundreds of jobs cut by Alyeska and BP just this year? Remember the cost-of-living decreases recently announced by both BP and Phillips?

The honeymoon is over.

Take a lesson from the oil companies. They're not waiting for money to fall from the sky. We get 80 percent of our revenues from them. Why should we be planning for a miracle?

We shouldn't. The House came to that conclusion last week, passing a four-part tax plan to raise about $900 million toward the $963 million budget deficit. Our representatives took the bold step of raising taxes during an election year. They deserve accolades.

Now our senators need to set aside politics and personalities and follow the House's example. They should stop crying ''cut'' in a state that includes the country's poorest census areas, some of its highest crime rates and school districts that can't even afford contemporary textbooks.

They should approve a tax plan that closes at least half of the deficit. They should improve the House's $250 million income tax, making it progressive instead of a regressive tax that benefits the wealthy. They should rubber-stamp the increased alcohol tax. And they should raise another $200 million from a combination of oil taxes, cruise ship taxes and the Permanent Fund Dividend.

They should do all this. But the session is almost over. And it is an election year. Don't hold your breath.

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