Our Obligation: The People of Alaska
By Rep. Dan Ortiz
March 26, 2016
We need to put Alaska on a sustainable budget path. The question of how has attracted a diverse variety of opinion, but there is clear widespread agreement throughout our district and the rest of Alaska that the Legislature must gracefully manage our fiscal decline (a 3.7 billion dollar deficit) and that the budget gap must be addressed immediately. There is also common understanding that the solution must be a combination of three actions:
1. Significant budget reductions
2. Protecting our Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend program while simultaneously using a portion of the earnings to fund state services (the irony? Using some earnings now is the only way to ensure the dividend will continue to be issued two years from now – if we don’t restructure, we will simply be out of money!)
3. New revenue sources.
I will push for a solution to the fiscal situation that includes all three of these actions, for which Alaskans have shown support. Last year I voted to cut the budget by $900 million dollars. I support continued surgical cuts in spending while we review new revenue options to combat the gap caused by our dwindling oil industry.
Our obstacle in the journey to balance Alaska’s budget is the leadership of the House and Senate Majorities. They say we need only to indiscriminately cut state services. In the last three years, the operating budget has been reduced almost in half from $8 billion to $4.7 billion. If we continue taking wild swings at the budget, we will put Alaskans at risk, because impulsive cutting can trigger a recession.
After we cut the budget past bare bones, they want to use permanent fund earnings. The problem with their position is that it will force the legislature to use a significantly bigger portion of our dwindling savings accounts. This will result in budget reductions that fall on the backs of our senior citizens, (the Pioneer Home program, senior benefits), Rural Alaska, and will conflict with our official priorities as stated in our Alaskan Constitution.
As I stated on the House Floor on Friday, March 18, closing Alaska’s budget gap is not a partisan issue. It’s not about the best interests of Democrats or Republicans. It’s about our responsibility as legislators to act in the best interest of all Alaskans, and Alaska as a whole. I’m committed to the work, building of bridges, and necessary compromise to create a solution in the best interest of Alaska.
About: Dan Ortiz is an independent member of the Alaska House of Representatives, who has since 2015 represented the 36th District. He is the only independent in the Alaska State Legislature.
Received March 23, 2016 - Published March 26, 2016
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