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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

Understanding the Legislative Standoff: The House Plan Versus the Senate Plan

By Ghert Abbott


June 05, 2017
Monday PM

The best way to understand the reasons behind the current legislative standoff is to examine the House Majority’s fiscal plan and the Senate Majority’s fiscal plan side by side, in order to determine their respective goals and values.

The House Majority’s stated goal is to equitably resolve the fiscal crisis and their fiscal plan reflects this. The House Majority’s plan does away with the wasteful tax credits and subsidies granted to the oil companies. Furthermore, it balances out the regressive reduction in the PFD, which will disproportionately impact low to middle income Alaskans, with a progressive income tax, which will principally effect high income Alaskans and non-resident workers. These broad based revenue measures, when combined with reasonable spending cuts, allow the state government to eliminate the deficit, protect irreplaceable services, preserve thousands of jobs, and provide a less diminished PFD. So the House Majority’s plan solves the fiscal crisis and stabilizes our economy by asking everyone in Alaska to contribute to closing the deficit and maintaining essential state services.

Contrast the basic honesty and equity of the House Majority’s plan with the duplicity and rank unfairness of the Senate Majority’s plan. The Senate Majority’s goal is clearly not to resolve Alaska’s fiscal crisis, as their plan utterly fails to close the deficit. Nor is it their goal to bolster Alaska’s economy, as the budget cuts in their plan would cost thousands more private sector jobs than the House plan and thus further prolong our recession. It is obviously not the Senate Majority’s goal to protect the PFD, as their plan reduces it more than the House plan would. And, all declarations to the contrary, it is not the Senate Majority’s goal to prevent tax increases beyond the PFD reduction, for the Senate plan actually depends upon local communities raising sales and property taxes to blunt the full impact of the Senate’s proposed cuts.

No, the Senate Majority’s true goal is to shield the oil companies and rich Railbelters from taxation by forcing ordinary Alaskans and rural communities such as Ketchikan to bear the brunt of the deficit through essential service cuts and regressive tax increases. That is what their plan does, that is what their plan is intended to do.

If some version of the Senate plan is implemented then Alaska will be neatly divided in two. There would be an Alaska that feels the full bite of recession and austerity, made up of senior citizens, young people, working people, small business owners, small towns, and rural communities. These left behind Alaskans would see their collective tax burden go up, their essential services degrade, and their quality of life fall. Living alongside this increasingly immiserated population would be a second, prosperous Alaska composed of those fortunate few fully protected by the largess of the state government: wealthy Alaskans, rich Railbelters, Anchorage millionaires, non-resident workers, and the oil companies. This small minority of financially insulated people and companies would do very well.

This is the reason for the standoff: the House Majority wants to equitably resolve our fiscal imbalance, while the Senate Majority is trying to use this imbalance to wage a class war against ordinary Alaskans on behalf of corporate interests and the extremely wealthy. If we want Alaska to be something more than a playground for the rich and the oil companies, if we want our state to remain a land of opportunity for all who choose to live here, then we should support the House Majority’s plan.

Ghert Abbott,
Ketchikan, Alaska

About: Ghert Abbott was born in Ketchikan in 1986. He is a graduate of Ketchikan High School and the University of Alaska Southeast-Ketchikan.


Received June 03, 2017 - Published June 05, 2017




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