Alaska Senate President Pete Kelly today said the governor and House Majority’s income tax proposal is not needed.
“With oil prices and production, we’re within grasp of a balanced budget. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to have a fiscal plan. We’re going to move forward with a fiscal plan. But I think the talk of taxing Alaskans — we would hope they would put that in the garbage can over on the House side. The point is that is not part of the Senate’s plan going forward.
“We do need to have a structured draw from the Earnings Reserve. And that’s going to be one of the Senate’s priorities, is making sure there are structured rules for getting into that ERA.
“We have the money to close the gap in very few years. So we need to change our rhetoric, that $26 rhetoric,” he said, referring to the $26 price that Alaska North Slope crude oil bottom out at in 2015.
“That was what began this discussion. People who were a little freaked out at the time because oil was so low, maybe they were right to be concerned or even panicking a little bit,” he said.
“But the Senate didn’t panic. We have measuredly moved forward on putting a rational method in place to make sure we can balance our budget.”
The governor has offered an income tax that would only pay for deferred maintenance capital projects and has offered an operating budget that is larger than last year’s.
KOWALKE DISCUSSION AHEAD
On a separate topic, Kelly said the Senate Republicans had not yet met to discuss Gov. Bill Walker’s nomination of Randall Kowalke to fill the spot vacated by Mike Dunleavy, who represented District E before restarting his campaign for governor in late December.
Kelly said he had no issue with Kowalke but felt the people of the district were not listened to by the governor.
“Our biggest concern — the people of the Mat-Su treated properly in the advancing of Mr. Kowalke’s name. That’s going to be our point of discussion,” he said.
In January, about 45 Mat-Su Republicans spent hours voting on the applicants for Senate Seat E, and forwarded three names to the governor, which he ignored.
District political activists have told Must Read Alaska that they thought Walker had essentially given them the middle finger by not respecting their process.
Senate Republicans have the authority to approve or deny the governor’s appointment.