by Rep. Vic Kohring
January 24, 2006
As the second session of the 24th Alaska Legislature begins here in Juneau, it's appropriate to examine why we are here and what we can achieve for Alaskans. To merely state that the biggest issue facing us is overspending is to state the obvious. Let's ask why and how this happens.
As legislators tend to their daily schedules, they are visited by legions of individuals and special interest groups. The vast majority of them want the Legislature to spend money on their particular program. Imagine the politician, even if he or she comes to the Legislature with a sincere limited government, spend less philosophy, is literally met and confronted on a daily basis by people who make loud and dramatic claims that if their needs are not met, it will be a great catastrophe and the legislator will probably lose his or her seat. The pressure is enormous. Few can resist.
So when I state with great certainty that we ought to use the large monetary income from recent high oil prices to take care of debt obligations and place the rest into our reserve accounts or the Permanent Fund as opposed to funding even more government, many will privately agree. But then the inevitable process of special interests' pressure begins to take its toll. This has gone on year after year, to where we now we have the most inflated budget in our state's history.
We rank as the highest spending state in the entire country. New Yorkers (represented by liberal Hillary Clinton) are taxed to an incredibly high per capita spending level. Oh woe on them. But Alaska outspends New York by three times!
We consume over $8 billion a year from our operating budget (mostly social programs and the bureaucracy to run them) in a state with a mere 700,000 people. Alaska has the dubious distinction of having the most exorbitant government of any state, spending more than entire countries in the world.
It's my 12th session in Juneau. I have watched this process repeatedly an even dozen times. It's time we acted rationally instead of emotionally. We should spend what we have more carefully and efficiently ... on the limited government we ought to have ... roads, police, fire protection and schools. We should wean ourselves from the soft, liberal, "feel good" programs that are not prescribed by our constitution.
With this common sense plea, to run government with an eye on constitutional restraint, and for courageously deleting the truly extraneous fat (government TV and Radio, tourism advertising, fish marketing, to name a few), we should move forward with developing important infrastructure.
To overcome the dramatic pleas of special interests is a long-term effort because each person's program is practically of absolute life or death importance. Legislators are inundated all session long with this. I throw down the gauntlet to each of my colleagues. Can you resist?
I have and will resist. Please join me. With this in mind Alaskans would then be left in peace to spend more of their own money the way they want, not government. It's theirs after all. They earned it.
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