Hear the loud sucking sound of a leadership vacuum?

October 10, 2015

I cannot be the only one who hears it; the loud sucking sound of a leadership vacuum stripping hope from a divided Alaska.10421321_10206526500335741_7231647268271859533_n

As the state grapples with a 3 or 4 billion dollar budget deficit and moves toward a special session at the end of this month, there is no consensus in sight.  This great divide is demonstrated in part by the following short excerpts from recently published articles.

Article 1, Revenue earnings plunge, Alaska Dispatch News, October 3, 2015.

http://www.adn.com/article/20151003/investment-earnings-plunge-state-looks-savings-fund-government

  • As reported in this article, State Revenue Commissioner Hoffbeck  is saying to the Permanent Fund Board of Trustees “there may need to be changes to the way the Permanent Fund operates if the state ends up relying on it for state government funding, and that’s likely to happen.”
  • Hoffbeck goes on to say “There’s a realistic expectation that the fund will become an important part of government funding going forward.” And, finally, “There’s absolutely no way to avoid the Permanent Fund being part of the solution.”

I don’t think there is any maybe about it.  The Commissioners quotes started me thinking the Administration was decided in its approach to the budget crisis.  It will use the Permanent Fund to solve the shortfall.  I predict downsizing government largesse is over; oil tax credits will not be adjusted, and income tax legislation won’t be introduced by the Executive Branch.

Maybe we will see a fight for a Constitutional amendment to use the Permanent Fund, or, at the very least, additional legislation from the Executive Branch as needed to use part of the PFD come Legislative Session 29, Session 1.

Article 2, My Turn: Alaskan are going to have to fight for it, Juneau Empire, is written by Anselm Staack, an active CPA and an attorney.  Staack has been an Alaska resident for over 41 years. He was the Treasury Comptroller for Alaska under Gov. Jay Hammond and worked directly on the creation of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation.

Mr. Staack offers an informed expert opinion that logically outlines the need to look at the revenue side of the budget and make oil tax credit adjustments.  He makes a lot of sense.  Probably too much sense to get anywhere.  See http://juneauempire.com/allaccess.

  • “There can be no discussion of budget issues in Alaska without addressing the revenue side. To do otherwise is completely disingenuous.” and,
  • “The ongoing state budget fight is totally incomplete if it ignores the revenue side.”

Perhaps the Legislature will introduce oil tax credit adjustments in Legislative Session 29, Session 1.  Good luck with that supporters of his logic (including myself) – given that existing majority members are the same members who gave these oil tax credits in the first place (SB21).  Remember?

Article 3, Mike Dingman, Alaska Dispatch News, October 7.  Alaskans government should buy a clue

Dingman expresses the common sentiment of public frustration I often hear when he writes

  • “In 2004, I could not figure out why legislators were not tripping over themselves to make sure this plan was put into place. Today it boggles my mind that the entire Legislature is just humdrumming through this budget crisis and seems far more interested in scoring political points rather than fixing the mess that they put us in.”

Article 4 , Alaska Dispatch, October 10,  Former Alaska Revenue Commissioner

The excerpts below confirm for me the states strategy to get us through the many tough fiscal years ahead I think.

  • “Walker on Friday reiterated his opinion that the fund will be a part of the state’s financial solution in his statement welcoming Rodell’s appointment.” and,
  • “The Alaska Permanent Fund will play an important role in addressing our state’s fiscal challenges,” he said.”

The critical questions are, in my view:  Will our elected officials work in earnest with the Governor on the divisive issues put forward during the upcoming sessions (such as gas-in-the-ground tax, and the buyout of TransCanada shares)?  Or, will the legislative majority choose to obstruct and ignore the Governor again – like they did last session on the Medicaid Expansion issue?  Will they simply table any real work and avoid the discussion?  Will others in the body stand for this kind of bullying that is not good for any of us?  If personal political agendas are allowed to prevail, the sucking sound of the leadership vacuum will only get louder.  We can only watch and wait for the next election.

I’ll take a lot of notes.  Legislative Session 29, Session 1 promises to be interesting.

On the bright side, an election year follows shortly after regular session ends.  Alaskans can make needed changes in leadership then – if registered non voters (about 50% of the total!) do their part and vote.  The existence of a leadership vacuum falls squarely on the shoulders of the voters.

Every voter gets the privilege of coming to their own conclusions on how their elected leaders deal with the issues this Session.  Elected leaders that do not vote like they put Alaskans first have got to GO.  Alaskans cannot afford to take a lackadaisical approach to the 2016 election.

In summary, many general public are frustrated and call for more fiscal scrubbing before new revenue streams are created, the Executive Branch seems to have its strategy set to fight for use of the Permanent Fund to bridge government through the lean years, and our elected officials-in-charge are at odds with anything the Governor proposes (re: in-the-ground gas tax).  These competing factors are creating the sound I spoke of at a time when Alaskans need to be brought together.

It’s enough to make my head explode and I can’t be alone.  Speak up if you are in the same boat; like and share this article.

Stay informed, stay tuned, and stay happy.

Sincerely,

LeadDog Alaska.

LeadDog Alaska/cc Leadership Vacuum/October 2015

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