By RICK WHITBECK / POWER THE FUTURE
If you look at the “bright side,” one good thing happened to Alaska’s economy this year. The American Rescue Plan and the other various Congressional stimulus plans injected over $1.5 billion into the state, providing a short-term life-ring to a budget that was originally projected to be that much in the red. Now, those a bit more pragmatic know growing government, especially via handouts, is anything but a solid foundation for a stable financial future.
The Alaska Legislature and Executive branches haven’t agreed on much these past four months when it comes to building a longer-term financial plan for the State. What a “correct’ mix of budget cuts, revenues and constitutional changes might look like when all is said and done is still in flux.
Beginning today, though, a bipartisan group of legislators is supposed to be meeting to develop such a plan; one that will be presented to their peers in a special session set to start early next month.
When the names were announced on Tuesday, there was a great deal of commentary on the participants. A number of them were not on their respective bodies’ finance committees, and for those Alaskans concerned with keeping resource development opportunities front-and-center (count Power The Future on-board with that idea, too!), there is definite concern with the make-up of the eight-person working group.
The members are:
- Senators Shelley Hughes and Lyman Hoffman with the Senate Majority;
- Senators Kawasaki and Kiehl with the Senate Minority;
- Representatives Calvin Schrage and Johnathan Kreiss-Tomkins with the House Majority;
- Representatives Ben Carpenter and Kevin McCabe with the House Minority.
During their last election cycles, Senators Kawasaki and Kiehl, as well as Representatives Schrage and Kreiss-Tomkins, were heavily endorsed and supported by anti-development groups, including the Alaska Center, which also led the charge for a radical re-write of the oil-tax formula for much of the North Slope.
The initiative, which was ultimately crushed at the ballot box, would have led to incredible job loss on the Slope, as well as decreased investment from oil and gas companies that ultimately are responsible for billions of dollars of tax revenues each year, as well as one quarter of all private-sector employment throughout Alaska.