Contributed by Rep. Mark Neuman
The state of Alaska is rich in natural resources, but mainly generates revenue from a single commodity - oil. Since the price of this oil has plateaued, Alaska has struggled to fund a government that is petroleum dependent. To solve this budget crisis, Governor Walker has proposed a number of revenue measures, and while some people seem to agree with these solutions, they are not truly addressing the problem.
The way I see it is the issue Alaska faces is a distinct lack of diversity in developing revenue from resources. If the state remains dependent on the single resource of oil, then all of the revenue measures proposed by the governor could be levied against Alaskan families to fund government; but likely will be back for more funding and from a much poorer Alaska, within the decade.
I simply cannot agree with Governor Walker’s revenue measures. He has removed over one billion dollars from the economy while proposing to tax even more money out of Alaskans’ pockets during a recession. With over fifteen billion dollars in reserves, the two and half billion dollar budget deficit can be covered without taking hundreds of millions from the economy in the form of a tax or restricting the PFD.
If the problem is addressed, we would be able to focus on selling our resources. The way we approach this issue is through comprehensive regulation reform, overhauling the barriers that prevent the state from being able to provide a sensible business climate and allowing the private sector to grow and thrive.
To ensure this, Alaskans need to keep both the legislature and the administration’s feet to the fire. We must demand Alaska be a better place for companies to invest in, and not just for large industry, but for small businesses that want to grow. I believe it is absolutely the worst thing that we can do to the state to take over a billion dollars out of the economy when we are headed into a recession and losing jobs by the tens of thousands; especially when we still have the money in savings.
Alaska will continue to be nothing but a harvest state and industry will continue to ship resources out of state, adding thousands of miles of transportation costs so that they can create jobs and economies elsewhere. It appears that we cannot develop enough of our resources to fund a government to meet the needs of only 700,000 people.
Hold your legislator’s feet to the fire of accountability. Insist on further reductions, and just as important, insist on regulation reform to help change Alaska into a better place to conduct business into the future.