Alaskans sending clear message: State needs long-range fiscal plan

Posted: Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Representatives of several major Alaska business and civic organizations sent a loud and unified message recently to Gov. Frank Murkowski and the Legislature's Republican and Democratic leaders: The state needs a long-range fiscal plan, and it needs one now.

The list of those proclaiming this responsible message is long: Alaska Coal Association, Alaska Conference of Mayors, Alaska Fire Chiefs Association, Alaska Government Finance Officers Association, Alaska Hi-Tech Business Council, Alaska Miners Association, Alaska Municipal League, Alaska State Home Building Association, Alaska Support Industry Alliance, Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, Association of Alaska School Boards, Associated General Contractors of Alaska, Council of Alaska Producers, Eagle River and Chugiak Chamber of Commerce, Juneau Economic Development Corp., Resource Development Council for Alaska.

The groups make a clear presentation of the framework that the governor and Legislature should work within. They argue for a restraint on spending but correctly state that budget cuts alone are not the solution. They support using a portion of the Alaska Permanent Fund to help pay for government services; in particular they support the percent of market value plan to restructure how the fund is used. They want consideration, in the end, of a sales or income tax or some other broad-based tax.

Their statement correctly excludes an expectation of increased revenue from natural resource development. Such development had until recent months been offered by the governor and many others as an element of a near-term plan to prevent the state's recurring financial shortfalls. While the governor and Legislature have taken steps to encourage development, additional revenue is not expected to arrive in sufficient quantity before the state's Constitutional Budget Reserve runs out, now estimated to occur in January 2007.

For many years, the message has been sent out that Alaska needs a long-range fiscal plan. For many years, too, politics, rebounds in the price of oil and an intransigent public have prevented the message from producing a solution.

The groups and others could soon be signing on sounding this latest alert have captured the essence of what Alaskans and their political leaders must quickly embrace.

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Nov. 15

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