Alaskans evidently do not want to cut budget over-spending! …at least not so far! Our votes, or lack thereof, have created and empowered the prevailing spending policies of the State of Alaska. “We the People” have elected and enabled the over-spending culture! To deny responsibility is to deny our constitutional power… the very power we need to fix our dilemma. It is hollow to whine about being duped by lying politicians or the deliberately blind, biased media… because we apparently tolerate overspending because we like it. After all, we are a tolerant people and “all boats rise” on the State spending tide – right? In the big picture, the electorate has indeed been getting exactly what it can’t resist, nanny over-spending.
Unfortunately, this year’s spending spree (budget process) seems not different than other years, except we have a Governor who will help us shape up the Legislature if we decide fix the problem. The annual melodrama of Juneau budget “hunger” is getting old! Perhaps there is a growing mass awareness that we need to “go on a diet”, but not enough to notice. We are again watching the flood of advocates rushing to Juneau to plead for more. We are watching the same old, time- tested, machinations proven to keep the feeding trough full!
Our exaggerated “hunger” is particularly frustrating this year because of growing awareness that the “Grocery supply” (revenue) now includes an unspecified amount from what could/ should be our PFDs! Permanent Fund earnings were never meant to be brazenly used as “groceries” (revenue) in the political budget pantry! I do not buy the pretense that this is/was the valid purpose of the PF and its earnings! If the legislature continues taking from this revenue source, billions more new dollars are added as fair game in the same spending plots and schemes. It would be added to the hog’s share originally surrendered in our constitution… the unrestricted 80% portion of our natural resource income! If budget politics is the “new norm” for the security of PF earnings, this will not end well! If we don’t impose a real “diet” on ourselves, (not a fake fad one) all of our supposedly reserved savings will be consumed just like 80-90 billion already used up!
It may be too late to reverse the damage done by the new presumption, but we do still have an option of preventing a total loss. So long as the Constitution of Alaska stands, we can force populist action to amend this supreme law of the land to make it very clear PF earnings are for PFDs, NOT budget revenue! If the government cannot sustain itself on the 80%, it must claw back additional revenue by imposing unpopular (for good reason) taxes. Undesignated (restricted) natural resource wealth (PF Earnings) is not intended to automatically become State budget revenue regardless of who wants it to be! The courts would eventually force the money to be used to fund legal funding promises (like our pension liabilities), but that does not mean the legislature can simply use it up according to “normal” budget protocol! In general, our policy on the source of political revenue MUST include taxation. The time-tested theory is if the legislature isn’t clever enough to pass tax laws to fund government, it cannot spend the revenue! “We the People” have spoken in the Constitution. The message is a pre-tax grant of 80% of Alaska’s natural resources. Beyond that, the legislature was specifically given the power to tax! If the legislature is tough enough, “come and get it”! The legislature has evidently it is easier to ignore the PF restriction than to pass tax laws. They are right unless we get as tough on them getting the restricted money as it would be to pass tax laws!
Comparing “Budgeting” with “Dieting” is a limited analogy because a person may be able to diet without fretting about who else may eat the food we don’t eat. We can address that anomaly by adopting a constitutional amendment, a strict, self-imposed diet, to carefully restrict the menu! We need a strict appropriation limit (a diet) in the Constitution itself! Check out SJR 4, SJR 5, and SJR 6,requested by Governor Dunleavy to amend the constitution to limit legislative spending, require statewide vote for taxes, and clarify restrictions on PF earnings! http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Home/BillsandLaw This combo is not just a “fad diet”. This self-disciplined action may be the only hope we have this side of bankruptcy and shame!
The plea of this editorial is for you to engage in the passage of SJR 6 even if it makes you hungry to think about it. It needs to be passed using language that is clear and simple. It is easy to learn how to engage, but be for-warned: You will be peddling a healthy diet in a market where it is a lot easier to sell fattening food! You will be attacked by those competing vendors as being anti children, education, health care, poor and elderly! Most often the attackers have conflicted interests, but that will not be apparent! Unfortunately, the only way to economic health is to reduce the caloric input… never an attractive option until we just do it.
This was also submitted as an article to The People’s Paper.