Fiscal Gap still a looming concern

Posted: Wednesday, July 11, 2001

Although Alaska's future and economic opportunity appears brighter than ever, the looming long term fiscal gap of the State may be short changing Alaska's future, according to Keybank District President Michael Burns.

Burns recently addressed the Soldotna Chamber of Commerce. "We're spending five to six, to eight hundred million dollars a year more than we're taking in and we are going to use up all of our reserves very shortly. So the investment we are making in education is being shortchanged, the investment we're making in everything is being shortchanged.

And the major players in the state, the resource extraction people, the long term capitol investors in the state are going to become very nervous about a state that is really in such financial disarray," said Burns. According to Burns, it will be the individual citizens of Alaska that will have to make the difficult decisions, and he feels we need to start by answering the questions about what we want the state and our children to be in the future and how we want them trained.

"There's been three or four blue ribbon panels over the years that have looked at the situation and they all have come up with the same equation, a little bit different formula but the same pieces which include some type of new revenue stream for the state, and a change in spending. I really feel we've now changed the spending all we can afford to and now we are short changing education, and the University is just barely meeting it's mission, and there is no place left to cut state spending and we have to look at the role of the permanent fund in the future and recurring revenues," added Burns, who is also the Chairman of the Board of Regents of the University of Alaska. Burns suggested we think of the state as a parent who wants to provide an education for their children and give them a dividend for their future, but understanding that an education is part of that financial boost.

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