Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions
RE: Voting to Increase State Spending
By Rodney Dial
March 16, 2017
Regarding this response to Rep. Ortiz’s letter, again, I am voicing my opinions and I am not speaking on behalf of the Ketchikan Assembly…
In my letter, I used total spending, all funds, and compared the budget the Governor sent to the house, and the budget after amended by the house majority budget sub-committee process. I didn’t pick and choose one budget or spending item; I didn’t pick different years, just what the legislature has done this session. Total spending… isn’t that what really matters? Anyway, all I did was cut and paste the info from the media which reported the $127 million increase on March 8th, (also reported by the legislative watchdog AK Headlamp on 3/14). They even attached documents from the legislature showing the increase (see below).
From the legislative watchdog AK Headlamp:
Extra Edition: Oh What a Tangled Web we Weave…
March 14, 2017 | Posted in : News
The House Majority has finished their budget. The bill (HB 57) is being debated, as we write, on the House floor. The 18-member House Minority has a few hundred amendments that attempt to reduce the size and scope of government. Headlamp expects them all to fail.
As Alaskans receive information about the details of the budget, it is important for them to trust but verify:
- Claims that the budget was reduced are false. Paul Seaton and Gabrielle LeDoux both sent constituent newsletters yesterday claiming that the House Majority had reduced the budget $81 million. That is not accurate. The House Majority actually increased Unrestricted General Fund spending (mostly the operating budget) by roughly $127 million. When accounting for all funding sources, the budget the House Majority is pushing is an increase of $77 million over Gov. Walker’s proposal and a $35 million increase over last year’s budget.
- Departments are using money appropriated for personal services to fund other items in their department. The House Majority is attacking Rep. Tammie Wilson for attempting to remove funding for state positions that were cut from departments as a result of last year’s budget, laiming doing so is a “double hit” because the funding has already been removed. The positions have been cut, yet the House Majority’s budget is still, in some cases, funding these positions! In Rep. Seaton’s constituent newsletter, he acknowledged this is a common practice in departments, and justified it.
- The only amendment to pass, so far, removed the intent language for DMV to outsource administration and licensing services to the private sector. This action is already happening, very successfully, returning millions of dollars to the state each year and reducing the size of government.
In wrap up? The House Majority actions to date show they are:
Increasing the size of government
Telling the public “alternative facts”
Denying all efforts to reduce the size of government and
Removing legislative support for departments to become more efficient.
“…when first we practice to deceive,” Sir Walter Scott.
Read for yourself at http://akheadlamp.com/news/
If you read Rep. Ortiz’s letter again, he is comparing the operating budget, and at one point comparing the budget they are working on now (FY18) to (FY15). In truth the budget continues to change, but the takeaway should be that he is voting to increase the budget nearly every day. Because we are in a 3 billion dollar deficit, all additional spending is funded from savings and eventually will be paid by new taxes and use of PFD earnings. When you consider it in this light, Rep. Ortiz’s letter should have been titled, “I increased the deficit and you get to pay for it”.
So far this session, over 330 amendments were introduced to reduce spending. Many were simple amendments to just keep agency spending at FY16 levels, or to de-fund the state employee positions that were supposedly eliminated (see my previous letter regarding this topic).
Some amendments seemed so clear-cut I truly expected Rep. Ortiz to support them, however not a single one passed. Here are some of the amendments and how he voted:
- Voted to continue paying for internet in Rural Alaska (I actually didn’t know we did this until I watched them debate it…cost is millions per year).
- Voted against requiring rural communities that have all education costs provided for free from the state, from contributing towards student travel. One amendment was to reduce state paid, free student travel and ask the community to “just help” fund the travel.
- Rep. Ortiz’s caucus supported a $1.7 million increase to the State Museum system.
- Rep. Ortiz supported spending significant state funds for an on-line library program for rural Alaska (Ketchikan citizens pay over $1.5 million per year for our library).
- Rep. Ortiz voted repeatedly against cutting funding for budget items considered non-essential.
- Voted against an amendment to reduce the excess number of positions statewide paid over $200,000 per year.
- Voted against several amendments that would have cut department overtime budgets by only 25%.
- Voted against returning some of the state employees we currently have working/living in Seattle to Alaska to keep the money here.
- Voted to fund $137,000 for the legislative cafeteria and Chef to cook for legislators (true). Why would they need a chef when they get over $200 a day in per diem? (see link below).
- Voted against an amendment that would have cut only a few percent off the states cost of administration even after hearing that Alaska spends “5 times” the national average on administration $902 per employee, vs national average of $171.
- Voted to give the AMHS half a million to advertise even though the system is frequently booked solid in the summer.
- $17 million for REAA was added back in (for areas of the state that do not pay anything towards education).
- $70 million was moved from one account (UGF) to another (DGF) to look like a reduction. AKA: fake savings.
The actions of Rep. Ortiz and his caucus this year have been to increase spending, not decrease it. Why? Well simply because time is not on their side. Over 330 amendments like the ones I mentioned above could have reduced state spending by more than $421 million which is more than they hope to collect from an income tax. http://mustreadalaska.com/new-house-finance-bosses-bundle-cuts-and-vote-down/
That, plus the recent massive oil find on the North Slope by Repsol, the largest U.S. onshore oil discovery in 30 years, will bring in significant revenues in the coming years. And of course… oil prices will eventually rise.
Anyway, don’t take my word for it, click on the following link and watch the legislature talk about how they are intentionally keeping the budget high to justify new taxes.
Back when I was in a state union, I remember discussions regarding an income tax and how that was the “preferred” tax, as they viewed it as the easiest one to raise in future years. You realize if we open that door, the income tax will increase again…and again forever, right?
Finally, I would also like to point out a few other things about Rep. Ortiz’s letter. He did not contest or comment on my assertions regarding the more than ½ of Alaskan communities that have all services paid and are lifetime welfare communities. The reason is that Rep. Ortiz’s office assisted me in obtaining the information.
Rep. Ortiz is a “nice guy” but my main contention with him is that he has shown that he is clearly not “independent” and is pushing a platform that will make Ketchikan a “donor city” … one that pays more in taxes to help offset areas that pay no taxes and have all services provided for free.
Who is going to fight for our community?
Received March 14, 2017
- Published March 16, 2017
RE: Voting to Increase State Spending By Rep. Dan Ortiz
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