Short term problems need short term fixes
Governor Bill Walker wanted the job as governor, and he got it. As our chief executive officer he is responsible for establishing the state’s budget. The legislature must fund it. The problem is that government expenses exceed available state income by approximately three billion dollars.
In an effort to get the budget under control, the governor is looking at increasing all manner of taxes, including a 6 percent personal income tax. He also wants to change the Permanent Fund so that it becomes a perpetual source of state funding, thereby decreasing and eventually eliminating yearly dividend benefits to individual Alaskans.
Seniors must do their share to help the state meet its short term budget deficit. Short term because sooner or later the price of oil will likely get back to $70 per barrel, which is sufficient to fund state expenses for a state population of around 700,000.
Most Alaskans know that once the government gets a source of money/income it will eventually increase state spending once the crisis is over.
Accordingly, the legislature should seriously consider the governor’s proposal, but include a “sunset provision”. The legislature should:
• Place a four year sunset limitation on the use of the Permanent Fund realized earnings. In short, the state can access the Permanent Fund’s realized earnings for four years; thereafter, individual dividends will be reinstated.
• Place a ceiling on the state’s expenses by limiting yearly state expenses to no more than 70 percent of the official estimated yearly budget.
• Place a five year “sunset limitation” on personal income taxes.
We senior Alaskans are lucky to live in a state that has unlimited commodity wealth. Wealth that has been compromised by past excessive state spending, sanctioned by our legislators. We can learn from this experience.
This time around the legislature should help the governor get us out of this short term financial mess by limiting state spending, instituting future income taxes with a sunset provision and sunset the use of the Permanent Fund earnings reserve to four years.
Leonard T. Kelley is a past board president and current board member of Older Persons Action Group, Inc.