Contributed by Governor Bill Walker
To the Editor,
I’d like to thank the Matanuska Susitna Borough Assembly and the Houston City Council for your resolutions in support of legislative action this year to bring the state’s budget into balance. Thank you for your leadership in these challenging times.
I also appreciate the dozens of letters and comments I’ve received from Mat-Su residents supporting such action or suggesting constructive alternatives.
I’m a builder, and my ultimate vision is to build Alaska. The Mat-Su knows how to build. You have consistently been the fastest growing region in Alaska and are now the second largest community in the state. This growth is occurring all over the Mat-Su Borough: new schools and businesses are being opened, new construction and roads are in the works and Alaska’s only indoor fun center is soon to be completed. To ensure this continued growth, Mat-Su and all of Alaska needs reliability.
I have a vision for Alaska that’s very different from where we are right now. A vision where we’re not worried about balancing the budget, or what the price of oil is today. An Alaska that is not tied to the rollercoaster economy we have seen so many times before.
But first, we have to deal with our budget challenge. When I came into office, the price of oil started falling like a rock – it dropped 51 percent in 81 days. It was unprecedented. In the last two years, Alaska lost three-quarters of our income. We have a deficit of $4 billion. It’s just not sustainable.
You can’t run a business this way, you can’t run a family this way, and you certainly can’t run a state this way.
The good news is, we have options – and we have a plan. The plan calls for spending reductions, an annual sustainable draw from the permanent fund earnings and additional revenues.
I don’t like taxes or changes to my dividend any more than the next guy. But we Alaskans enjoy the lowest individual taxes in the nation. Changes to our tax structure ensure that everyone who enjoys the benefits our state provides, including out-of-state workers, contributes to the solution.
The only solution I won’t entertain is doing nothing. That puts us on a course to drain our constitutional budget reserve in two years, and drain the earnings reserve less than two years later. That means no more dividend checks in less than four years, and we’ll be in a world of hurt.
The situation requires politically uncomfortable decisions. I thank Mat-Su leaders for recognizing that there is no free lunch. But pulling together, we have the tools to solve our budget challenge. Then we can go on to diversify our economy, expand our agricultural opportunities, build and strengthen our infrastructure, and invest in Alaska and Alaskans.
Governor Bill Walker