Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Editorial

 


A reasonable person looking at Alaska’s budget “shortfall” might conclude that our state’s leaders – from Gov. Bill Walker on down – are either cowards or misers.

How else to explain that a state that has no income tax or sales tax, a state with savings accounts so big that it doles out more than $1,000 to each resident annually just for breathing within its borders, is proposing to cut important services because its budget doesn’t balance?

If Gov. Walker walked into a meeting of governors from other states and announced Alaska has budget problems, he’d be laughed out of the room.

As Alaskans who pride ourselves on independence and resourcefulness, we should be embarrassed by what’s happening in Juneau.

State legislators are busy whacking chunks of spending from services and offices that provide us a decent quality of life because the price of oil has dropped for a spell. Proposals that could significantly affect Haines include a 10 percent cut to ferry service and elimination of our state forestry office. That means a lot fewer ferry sailings and who knows what rigamarole to get firewood out of the 286,000-acre Haines State Forest.

What’s going on? Are we so addicted to petro-dollars that we cannot conceive of ways to get by without a gushing supply of them? Can no one remember that Alaska was a good place to live before the oil industry showed up here like the Cat in the Hat? It appears Thing 1 and Thing 2 have seized control of our state government.

Why has there been almost no talk of using savings to cover holes in the budget until the price of oil recovers? Why has there been no talk of instituting some forms of taxation so Alaskans can help pay for the services they enjoy as residents?

Is it because Alaskans are the oil industry’s welfare queens, too lazy to pull their own weight? Or is it because Alaska’s leaders are too weak-kneed to suggest that it’s time for the state to begin standing on its own two feet?

There’s only talk of cutting programs and departments that serve Alaskans who don’t have the money or influence to protect themselves from those in power. It’s enough to make one think that our “conservative” legislators are mostly concerned about conserving their own cushy positions.

Make no mistake about it: A 5 or 10 percent cut to department budgets in Juneau won’t trickle down to legislators’ pay or even raise prices at their gourmet diner in the capital building: The cuts will come down hardest on working Alaskans.

Here’s a novel idea for our representatives in Juneau: Propose covering most of the $3.5 billion budget shortfall with money from our $40 billion Permanent Fund or from our $21 billion Constitutional Budget Reserve. Or propose a state income tax, or a state sales tax. Or mix and match any combination of the above.

Even if such ideas scare the bejabbers out of you, express them. Out loud. You might be surprised by what you hear back.

Out here in workaday Alaska, we have budget shortfalls all the time. It’s what happens when we don’t have enough money for what we want. Sometimes we dip into savings. Sometimes we find new ways of generating money. Sometimes we do without.

We certainly don’t panic, or start cutting away at things that are important. We accept that the cost of living in Alaska is high and will go higher. Alaska is a great place. We don’t expect it to come easy, or cheap.

- Tom Morphet

 
 

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