Governor Parnell’s 2014 budget puts the Community Revenue Sharing (CRS) program on the block for a $10M cut; not quite as the bad old days of the Murkowski era, but too close for comfort.
Obviously Governor Parnell, like Governor Murkowski, does not grasp the importance of this program for rural communities.
Community Revenue Sharing became a formula driven program based on a small share of oil revenue in 2008 under Governor Palin. The formula funding has added up to an annual minimum of $60M distribution for all Alaskan cities since then – somewhat like a Permanent Fund check for every community. However, it may be the only revenue for a very small community. It is critical the program survive with healthy funding levels. We need to the preserve and protect the very character of Alaska which is our unique and rich rural life. Rural Alaska makes this state what it is. Without rural Alaska, the state would be just like any other. It is the essence of this state.
The Community Revenue Sharing Program has had a rocky history.
Under Governor Murkowski, the Community Revenue Sharing program went unfunded for three years in a row. The impact on rural Alaska was devastating.
Then, in 2007, as Director of the State Division of Community and Regional Affairs, staff and I worked very hard with the legislature, the Governor, the Alaska Municipal League and other stakeholders to see a new and improved program reinstated with a $60M funding base. Governor Sarah Palin signed SB72 into law in 2008. The big success of our joint effort was getting a funding formula into this state law. This funding, the lifeblood for so many communities, was more secure under this SB72, but it is still vulnerable.
All cities receive a check from this program; however, reinstatement in 2008 provided desperately needed revenues for small cities throughout Alaska. When I retired in 2011, some communities were just beginning to get back on their feet and recover from the Murkowski cuts.
Under SB72, the Progressivity Tax on oil and gas production provided the funding stream for the Program. Now, Governor Parnell’s legislation, SB21, erases the Progressivity Tax on oil and gas production. This action is likely to reduce the funding for the CRS program to ZERO. Safeguards need to be built in. Small villages will once again be devastated if a funding stream is not secured. It will hurt the entire state.
Lawmakers in Juneau should call for an impacts analysis of the tax reduction in relation to the Community Revenue Sharing program.
An analysis deserves serious consideration before the proposed legislation moves through the halls in Juneau on its way to the Governor for signature.
Where will the CRS funding come from in future budgets? What impacts do the decisions made today have on the Community Revenue Sharing program? The public deserves answers to these questions.
We depend on the legislators to write fair legislation which will serve the best the interests all Alaskans. Any reduction to the Community Revenue Sharing program is unacceptable.
Legislators must protect and champion this program. Legislators who do not support rural affairs just don’t get it and deserve to be replaced. We need lawmakers who understand how important rural Alaska is to the entire state; nothing less.
Governor Parnell’s disconnect from rural affairs is despicable. The Community Revenue Sharing program is headed for zero funding I fear. I hope legislators who cherish Alaska’s rural lifestyle, it’s character and diverse cultures, will do the right thing.
Please solicit support for Community Revenue Sharing through your legislators. Thank you very much.
Views expressed here are the writer’s own.