By JIM CRAWFORD
“The most irresponsible budget in Alaska History” is the way organized labor blasts the budget currently under consideration by the House. It passed the Senate with a vote of 5 against and 15 for the budget.
Wow, maybe this is the year the legislators will listen to the people instead of special interests.
In a prior column, I asked you to watch the National Education Association double their invoice to the state. That’s the bill that folks like lobbyist and legislator Zack Fields, laughingly call “savings” when describing how to double the education budget.
Let’s be straight with each other. Education has not been cut a dime this year. Instead, Big Labor has rolled the dice to get a twofer for our pathetic and failing education system. They asked for $2.4 billion instead of $1.2 billion for the state portion of spending.
The most amazing statement by liberals like Fields is the redefinition of savings. I read financial statements for a living; every Alaskan should read them, too. In a quick gathering of public financial statements today I found over $93 billion of savings in cash and investments. That is in addition to the savings we hold to cover retirement obligations of PERS and TRS.
Name me another state that has that kind of cash per capital. You can’t because there isn’t any state that has ready cash to meet any contingency, as we have in Alaska. The Earnings Reserve Account of the Alaska Permanent Fund has $10.4 billion in ready cash. Those funds can be spent by a simple majority of the Legislature, if we have a need that passes public muster.
Tying the dividend to today’s state earnings instead of Fund earnings is pure genius in confusion politics. Those who advocate the full dividend do so on the basis of a state statute, which defines the obligation as 50% of earnings of the fund, with no calculation of current earnings from outside the Fund. That formula will always be sustainable, although it may go up or down depending on performance. That accountability of the up and down provides management with accountability of the Fund. To confuse the issue with other earnings is disingenuous.
Haven’t we had enough “hide the money” games from Juneau?
The Operating Budget is based upon what we have coming in, versus what’s going out. That’s the Legislature’s and governor’s jobs to add or cut according to our means. This year’s Spring forecast showed an all- in surplus of $3.44 billion. If you listen to the ones who will anything to hide the real earnings, “the budget is unsustainable, so we must put more billions into savings to make it even more unsustainable”. Please share with your Legislator that matching up income and expense is their job. Adding a $1.2 billion in more education expense does not make the problem easier to solve, it makes it tougher.
House members: Vote yes for the budget that the Senate passed, and then come home. Let the public decide whether you did well or not. Pay out the full dividend to your shareholders, and do it now.
Jim Crawford is the former President of Permanent Fund Defenders, pfdak.com, an Alaska based educational nonprofit corporation based in Eagle River, Alaska. Jim is a third generation, lifelong Alaskan who co-chaired the Alaskans Just Say No campaign to stop the raid on the Permanent Fund in 1999. He also served Governor Hammond as a member of the Investment Advisory Committee which formed the investment and corporate strategy of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation in 1975.