SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Juneau Stalemate!



February 22, 2017
Wednesday PM

(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska - As the volume is turned up to eleven on the debate over the State of Alaska fiscal situation I am reminded of a sage saying by an old friend who still walks the halls of the State Capital building “There is profit in the chaos!”


For some the profit is literal, legal and monetary. However, there are many currencies being exchanged in Juneau. In this particularly chaotic situation one constituency trading currency stands out in my mind as the major barrier to a solution for the next two years, those trading on aspirations for higher office.

This scenario plays out every two years with more intensity every four years during campaigns for Governor. Although this year, during the run-up to a gubernatorial election with open nominations for both the Republican and Democrat parties (assuming Governor Bill Walker again runs as an Independent) the scenario is especially active. Three sitting Republican Senators have expressed interest in running for Governor, and nobody is ruling out a run by the Senate President either. That is one fifth of the entire body possibly running for Governor while serving and legislating.

Every one of these Senators will vote with winning that Republican primary in mind, it is the human nature of politics.

Each year in Juneau requires a different operating procedure than the last, even if the people stay the same. Situations such as which legislation is in play, what chair has which bill, which project or issue has momentum, the temperature of the constituency, and most importantly who is running for which office next will dictate the general success of any given session. Again, even if all the people remain the same, external and internal forces change the dynamics each session.

During each of these unique sessions the Judicial branch is rarely on the minds of most legislators when tackling the policy issues of the day. Therefore, the session dynamics are and always will be three independent bodies sparring with each other in the constantly shifting situation of State politics. The Governor, the House and the Senate are these three bodies and do they love to spar!

Without fail two of the three will team up and push their agenda or issue on the odd body out. Whether it is the Senate and the House versus the Governor or the Senate and the Governor versus the House, this always happens on one issue or the other. Sometimes it doesn’t really get that much attention or doesn’t really matter to everyday Alaskan’s, but this is not one of those times. What I see today, plain and clear is the House and the Governor teaming up against the Senate.

And the puzzle this year is really quite simple. The House and the Governor support an income tax as part of the fiscal solution. The Senate wants budget cuts rather than the income tax. All three bodies, at this point, support using a portion of the Earnings Reserve from which your dividends come. Implementing income taxes and reducing dividend checks are why most of you are really, really concerned about this.

Here is the rub. With an open seat for the Republican nomination for Governor and possibly four Senator’s vying for the nomination it is hard for me to believe there will be enough support for an income tax in the Senate. It is led by the most conservative Senate President since Mike Miller of North Pole (Fairbanks suburb) held the gavel. Do you really believe that the fellow Fairbanksian who represents what is considered the most conservative district in Alaska will let an income tax loose on his watch? I do not, especially when we have enough cash in the bank for at least two more years.

If the Democrats are smart on this issue, and I believe they will be, they won’t institutionally support a candidate in deference to Governor Walker and Democrat Lieutenant Governor Mallott. Many believe this deal with the Democrats has already been made and is generally accepted as the probable path to victory for the Independent Walker. We saw a similar scenario with our own House race for District 36. There was no Democrat candidate, an Independent, by default, taking most of the Democrat vote and a lot of the moderates leaving the Republicans fighting over the right and far-right.

The Senate Republicans will slice up the right and the far right in a race to conservatism. This race between leads directly away from an income tax, a piece the combined forces of the Governor and the House strongly support. This battle for the Republican nomination will take place right in the middle of the Senate during possibly the most important session in our State history. This battle for the nomination will kill any chance for a long-term solution before 2019.

I hope I am wrong, for the sake of Alaska.




Kyle Johansen ©2017

Ketchikan resident Kyle Johansen is the former Majority Leader of the Alaska State House of Representatives (Jan. 2009- Nov. 2010). He was a member of the Alaska House of Representatives from 2007-2012.


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