We need courageous leadership this legislative session to move forward to fiscal stability. Just because an election is coming up is no excuse to kick the can down the road and wait for the other guy to do something. I hope to see a robust discussion on all potential revenue streams and budget cuts from our elected leaders this session. I hope other Alaskans will join me in tuning into the televised sessions. I will be watching to see if our elected leaders stand up for Alaskans and face this crisis. I can say Governor Walker has reached out in many forums to engage the public in the fiscal discussion. Now, the ball is in the Legislative court.
Three bad things have happened in recent past: (1) the passage of Senate Bill 21, (2) the $14M defeat of its repeal, and (3) the crash of oil prices.
Two good things have happened: (1) the defeat of a too-friendly-with-the-oilies Governor was replaced in the last general election with (2) a true Alaskan, Governor Bill Walker. This general election only got the problem halfway fixed; now we must watch the incumbents in Alaska’s House and Senate.
More specifically, the public deserves some answers on the passage of SB21. It must be asked of incumbents who voted ‘yes’ on SB21 (with seemingly no consideration of it’s impact on the budget): What were you thinking? Why were you so generous with the industry? Why weren’t you willing to just amend ACES? and most importantly, what are you going to do in Session 29 to fix it?
(From the Journal Text, 28th Legislature)
- The 11 senators who voted ‘yes’ on SB21 during Session 28 include: Kelly, Coghill, Bishop, Huggins, Dunleavy, Fairclough-McKinnon, McGuire, Meyer, Giessel, Dyson, and Micciche.
- The 27 representatives who voted ‘yes’ on SB21 during Session 28 include: Austerman, Chenault, Costello, Feige, Gattis, Hawker, Higgins, Holmes, Hughes, Isaacson, Johnson, Keller, LeDoux, Lynn, Millett, Munoz, Nageak, Neuman, Olson, Pruitt, Reinbold, Saddler, Seaton, Stoltze, Thompson, P. Wilson, and T. Wilson.
A ‘yes’ on SB21 in and of itself does not make the incumbent a bad leader. Their answers as to ‘Why did you do that?’ is important. Alaskans need an explanation, and oil tax law needs to be amended. Any of these incumbent ‘yes’ people who choose to run again must be made accountable before they are re-elected. It is every voter’s right, and responsibility, to vet all of these incumbents before the next election in 2016.
Right now, as we head into Session 29, we can observe and hope for leadership to emerge. Will our elected officials work in earnest with the Governor on the divisive issues such as the gas-in-the-ground tax, and/or the buyout of TransCanada shares? Or, will the GOP majority choose to obstruct and ignore the Governor – like they did last session on the Medicaid Expansion issue? Will they simply table any real work and drag their feet to avoid the hard issues? Will others in the body stand by quietly, putting up with this kind of arrogant political gamesmanship? Only time will tell. I’ll take good notes.
If personal political agendas are allowed to prevail in the upcoming session, the loud sucking sound of a leadership vacuum will only get louder. If that happens, voters from the ‘yes’ districts must step up to the plate during the next election and do what needs to be done.
It’s a challenge. Stay tuned, Session 29 should be a good one.
LeadDogAlaska is written and published by Tara Jollie; long time state employee, Deputy Commissioner State Department of Labor; and Director, Community and Regional Affairs.