Micciche: There are pathways forward - Must Read Alaska
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Sunday, December 15, 2019
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Micciche: There are pathways forward

BY SEN. PETER MICCICHE

Due to the large volume of correspondence I have recently received, I thought it may be helpful to share this perspective with my constituents about the current state of legislative and administrative deadlock.

Governor Dunleavy was elected by the people of Alaska back in November. In our District O on the Kenai, he won by more than a 2-1 margin. Like him or not, he is our governor and one of the most powerful in the country due to authority provided under Alaska’s Constitution. He won handily on a platform of significant budget reductions, full PFDs and tough laws designed to reduced crime…a platform similar to mine.

Since his election, battle lines have been drawn within many in the legislature on the governor’s platform issues. Things certainly could have gone smoother this session. We should have worked together more effectively to avoid running out of time on these critical issues. The lack of a plan to move forward seemed to be caused by most of the energy being directed at stopping the governor’s agenda. However, the repeal of SB91 through HB49 proved that we can pull together as a Legislature in partnership with the administration to do what is right for Alaskans. 

Wednesday in Juneau, there will be a veto override attempt of the governor’s line item vetos to the FY20 operating budget. It will not be successful, partially due to the fact that there will not be 45 members in Juneau on Wednesday (the minimum required to override). At least 21 do not favor an “up or down” override and 19 will likely be in Wasilla where the governor lawfully called this special session. The courts will likely decide the legitimacy of the legislative move to Juneau unless a compromise is reached. One possible outcome could void the work done there this special session.

What does that mean for the thousands statewide and many District O constituents that have contacted me concerned about specific cuts and Wednesday’s veto overrides? The objective seems to be to further divide Alaskans, since the votes are clearly not there for a successful up-or-down override. It means that the only way out of this quagmire, is for Alaskans to demand that legislators put aside the swords of the past 6 months and sit down to work out a compromise regarding what is most important to Alaskans. 

This should not be happening in July when the solutions are very limited and we are already within the next fiscal year. Without pointing fingers, a late start, deep philosophical divides and the lack of respect for each other’s views within the Legislature and between the legislature and the Dunleavy Administration has resulted in this political paralysis. This should have been resolved in April, perhaps May at the latest. 

Leadership in the legislature has been resisting many of the Governor’s objectives and the Governor has been a bit “pokey” with certain legislators. All sides should claim responsibility. However, now is the time to put it all behind us for the good of Alaska. The people of Alaska expect and deserve better. They are justifiably frustrated by our ineffectiveness and petty politics.

First, I respectfully call on both sides to compromise on a meeting location for special session. Everything is more important than this issue. Although the good folks in the Valley have been wonderful and accommodating, there is an adequate compromise facility in Anchorage and it is on the road system.

Second, and for God’s sake, key legislators and the governor must sit down and negotiate on the issues keeping Alaskans apart. Both sides must be willing to listen and give an inch or two. A veto override is not the only remaining, nor most effective option.

Since the operating budget overrides are not likely to occur on Wednesday, we must work to agree on a solution that represents a livable compromise in the capital budget…the perfect compromise where both sides are somewhat equally unhappy. It is past time to get our work done this year; work that includes a funded PFD and a compromised capital budget with solutions to the reverse sweep debacle and operating budget issues.

Folks ask why I am not in Juneau or Wasilla? I asked the Senate to be excused for the commercial fishing season months back and received unanimous approval. Who dreamed that these issues would not have been settled by now?

I have explained that I will be available for meaningful key PFD and capital budget votes. Commercial fishing is important to our family’s Alaskan lifestyle and livelihood and it only happens in July. However, I will be there when my vote will make a difference toward a final solution this year. I also believe that the governor possesses the legal authority to call a session in Wasilla and that a compromise could have been negotiated prior to the split-location outcome. 

On Wednesday’s veto override, folks have asked where I stand. The vote Wednesday is an “up or down” vote on the entire package. On that limited choice, I would be a “no” vote. There are reductions in that budget (such as the governor’s departmental travel budget reduction of $3.5 Million, and the reduction in the transfer from the Earnings Reserve of $5.6 Billion) that I support as well as many others.

However, there are also individual vetos I do not support (such as senior benefits, impacts on the disabled and seniors, a significant portion of the university reduction and others). When we bring folks together, we can iron out these differences, come to a reasonable compromise and meet both objectives to significantly reduce spending while preserving efficiently-delivered, necessary services for the most vulnerable Alaskans.

For those concerned about Wednesday, this is far from over and in my opinion more productive options remain. I encourage Alaskans to correspond respectfully (yes, even on Facebook), to encourage legislators like me and Governor Dunleavy to work toward getting this session completed and to continue letting us all know what is important to you. I have seen some of the comments from folks I have known for years directed at me and other legislators. Some of them are not flattering for the target or the writer and are often downright disrespectful. I am not a different Peter. I am representing the wishes of my constituents the best that I can, and working toward a balance that keeps Alaska moving forward.

We have so much more to do to build a sustainable, balanced and promising future. We must move beyond this self-imposed recession. We can no longer afford to be high-centered on the simplest tasks due to polarized ideology. Historically, Alaskans have always come together at difficult times when it has been needed most. This is clearly one of those times to move past this together and back to a state that once again makes us all proud.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this and as always, call me at 283-7996 or email senator.peter.micciche@akleg.gov to discuss.

Sen. Peter Micciche serves District O, the Kenai Peninsula.

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  • I have to disagree with “Everything is more important than this (meeting location) issue.” The location is obviously extremely important. Otherwise, it would not be bitterly contentious. Outcomes from Juneau and Anchorage have been disastrous. The Governor should stay firm on Wasilla.

    • ERAK, I disagree with your “disagreement,” respectfully. A meeting location should not have any effect on the outcome of the meeting. The legislators chose to engage in political theatrics instead of substantive efforts to serve the people. There was plenty of time to negotiate the location once advised it would be in Wasilla. Instead, there was a ‘middleschool” approach by opposing legislators, who chose to take their toys and leave the playground. The result has not been recorded for posterity and with Big Mike wielding the big stick. I would also point out the Sen. Micciche made a typical Valley dig when he said,”Although the good folks in the Valley have been wonderful and accommodating, there is an adequate compromise facility in Anchorage and it is on the road system”. I would point out to the good senator that Wasilla is also on the road system. It is interesting that an Alaska Senator can be excused from the People’s business to conduct family business. A real servants attitude on display there.

  • This whole thing has become surreal! I feel like I’m living in the Twilight Zone! Ever since Governor Dunleavy released his initial budget proposal, people have been going berserk. At the end of the day, these cuts are about 15% of the overall budget. The hysteria around the UA cuts has a lot to do with Jim Johnson and his unwillingness to work with the Legislature (through the years), and make common sense changes to the system that could save significant amounts of money, as well as the University, overall. I thought that was why he made the big bucks!

    The angry protests and rhetoric serve no productive purpose. You can’t bully people into doing what you want. Alaskans voted for this! Governor Dunleavy was elected by a wide margin. He’s in a no win situation; if he doesn’t reduce the state budget, as promised, he will be vilified for not keeping his promises. Since these vetoes, he’s being vilified and accused of destroying our economy and hurting Alaskans. We cannot tax ourselves out of this deficit! Alaska spends almost twice as much per capita than most other states. That’s insane! And it’s not about the cost of living here. Politicians and elected officials have been talking about reducing state spending for years. Enough lip service! Finally, we have a Governor with the courage to actually do something to that end. It’s not pretty, but something has to be done. We can’t have everything.

    Perhaps things would be different if our Legislature had to conduct business under the watchful eyes of Alaskans on a daily basis. There needs to be more accountability and access to the Legislative Sessions. If the Legislators can’t figure out where they’re supposed to be, how are they ever going to solve the real problems facing this state?

    • I’m sounding a sour note in your echo chamber. You are mistaken. Truly misinformed.
      The 140 million is equal to the *entire* budget of UA Fairbanks. You cannot plug this hole by ordering cheaper coffee. Anyone who tells you that “there are efficiencies to be found” is lying to you.
      ******
      This means students will not be able get an education. It means a return to recession. It means taking money out of the economy.

      • Governor Dunleavy’s vetoes amount to less than 15% of the state budget. The big hit UA took is largely due to Jim Johnsen’s arrogance and inflexibility.

    • Yep that’s right, I remember Dunleavy describing how he would implement massive cuts to the University, K-12, seniors, homeless programs, rural safety/VPSOs. He also descbed how he would be hiring Donna who had done such a great job gutting in other states she benefited from private prison contracts. Then I remember the deafening standing ovation he received at AFN after making these comments. Wait a minute, that was just a figment of my imagination. Now that I think about it more carefully I remember he actually said no cuts to education, strengthen our communities, increase efficiency in government gradually through attrition and not filling over 1000 vacant state positions…. Donna has Dunleavy in over his head.

  • I am very perplexed by the state of excess with the UA system and I don’t believe they, meaning board of regents, administration, will make needed changes unless forced to and what better force than less money. $130,000,000 could easily be offset with only a very few of many needed changes. Bottom line, our state budget across the board is not realistic and we need to rein in spending. There is no way for this to not be painful but it must be done in order to look forward to a healthier economic future for our state.

    • a. that’s just false. Have you actually looked at the numbers? 140 million is *entire* budget of Fairbanks.
      *****
      b. it’s foolish. Universities pay for themselves. Economists have shown this time and time again. Not only are they anchors for their immediate communities but the graduates go on get higher paying jobs and thus contribute more to the economy. And many of the professors work on grants. Meaning they are bringing money into the state. If their work is stopped the state will lose money.
      *****
      If you will read it, I’ll post studies to back my assertions.

    • Yes!! No better idea than to destroy the University system because there are too many high paid administrators. Even better, let’s let those administrators allocate the cuts!! While we’re at it, I’ve read that someone in the military paid $500 for toilet seats! They must have too much money or these things wouldn’t be happening. Let’s slash the military budget by 41%.

    • Courage is looking at reasonable cuts, give proper time to execute those cuts to those systems most affected. Also balance with looking at income tax and sales tax since no new oil is coming soon. Who cares where they meet- just meet together ALL 60 Strong to vote and work together!

  • Yes, indeed “The people of Alaska expect and deserve better.”

    Fishing as a livelihood to provide for your family is important. However, please consider there are many seniors currently hungry due to the unexpected change in benefits (I heard their voices while listening to a legislative listening session). Please also consider that hundreds of other people are scrambling to best determine how they will provide for their families after extreme thoughtless cut to the University is implemented and they lose jobs.

    Please encourage the governor to fire his Rasputin and to send Donna packing back to where she came from without a private prison or education contract. He needs to listen to Alaskans, to the legislature, and to lead without undo influence from outsiders who don’t care about the long-run welfare of Alaskans.

    • The University system is bloated overated bureaucracy that needs to reform but is unwilling to. You ca n not feed a beast that is to inept to stop eating.

      • About 60 million in cuts over the last 4 years which has led to downsizing on all campuses, program closures (eg chemistry at UAA), and a reorganization (ie strategic pathways) that cost the UAA college of education it’s accreditation. If the governor is concerned about efficiency why no cuts to rural campuses or UAS the smallest and least efficient in the system. This is pure politics. If administrative costs/salaries are the problem this is no way to solve it. Who do you think will be making the cuts? This fiscal problem is easily solvable if we honor the intent of the voters / 1976 constitutional amendment to create the Permanent Find, the earnings of which were to go to the general fund to pay for basic government services – not to shell out a 1.9 BILLION dollar entitlement. So we’re cutting about 500 million of core government services to fund a 1.9 billion entitlement. Any conservative in another State will tell you this is insane!

        • The actual reduction in dollars is only 17 percent if the school administrators can’t figure out how to make these cuts than they should find new jobs. The University spends way more money than any other in the Country and the graduation rate of full time students is abysmal. In small business if you are not making it you look for ways to cut you just don’t ask for more money. Loss of accrediation of one of the major programs is inexcusable and the many satellite campuses can also be reduced. Just a few ways to make these cuts meaningful.

    • Exactly right. This has been orchestrated by out of town interests like “Americans for Prosperity” (Koch brothers) who want use Alaska as a laboratory for their economic theories.

  • go ahead and feed it some more and see what happens

  • Time to break up the university system into small junior colleges and technical schools. We are long over due for that. Private schools are a better alternative.

    • I wholeheartedly agree DK. The top heavy administration of the university system ensures higher tuition costs and necessitates that the state pour billions into the system to keep it afloat. With all these college educated folks, who will fix the things that are essential to everyday life? Tradesmen, and they won’t have a student loan weighing them down for 30 years after completion.

  • This mess is a failure of leadership in both the House and Senate. It began years ago under Edgmon in the House, for some reason Senate leadership has lost it’s way and now is encamped in Juneau simply disobeying the governors lawful special session. The failed leadership has decided they do not want to even deal with a veto override by having a meeting in Juneau with less than the required number of votes for an override, they also decided to have a single up or down vote on the overrides. The legislative leadership will own these vetoes as much, if not more than Governor Dunleavy. Any compromise should involve replacing the failed leadership that brought about this self inflicted problem.

  • First Peter the University has no mandate in our Constitution for funding! All other Department.’s do….if you look at what’s funded by the governor veto in the Public Safety vs. the University the University got 22.6 million more Now is elective education more important the Public Safety? If it was then our Constitution would have reflected it’s importance>

    • Yes, another great idea! Studies have shown time and time again that states and countries that grow at the fastest rates are those with the lowest levels of education. Let’s kill public education in Alaska because there is no constitutional mandate for funding. Meanwhile let’s ignore the constitutional mandate to use the earnings from the Permanent Fund to fund core government services and instead pay out a 1.9 billion dollar entitlement. Soon we will be the envy of every state in the country!

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