GOP Undermines Budget Cutting Message With Caucus Move

This morning the State Senate Majority added Sen. Donny Olson to their caucus. I, like most, wondered why the majority would make such a move.

Sen. Donny Olson

Sen. Donny Olson

Could it be to effectively decertify the Senate Minority since the move leaves them with only 4 members and legislative rules require 5 to receive the benefits and privileges of being an official caucus? Senate President Kevin Meyer says no, the minority will be treated the same going forward.

Does the majority need another vote to access the CBR or override veto by the Governor? No to both, they already have a ¾ majority.

It is an intriguing mystery I’ll keep my eye on.

For their part, this is what the majority had to say about the move:

Today, the Senate Majority announced that Sen. Donny Olson (D-Golovin) will join the Senate Majority organization. Elected to the Senate in 2001, Sen. Olson represents Senate District T, serving Barrow, Coldfoot, Golovin, Kotzebue, Nome, Nunam Iqua, Ruby, Selawik, Unalakleet and Wainwright. As a member of the Senate Finance committee, Olson has played a key role in addressing the state’s budget challenges.

“I am honored to join the Senate Majority and lend a strong voice for rural Alaskans,” said Olson. “I look forward to working with the other members of the majority for the good of all Alaskans.”

“The majority will benefit from Sen. Olson’s experience and valuable insight as a rural leader,” said Senate President Kevin Meyer (R-Anchorage). “He adds depth and contributes a diverse view to our team, and we are privileged to have him.”

The 16-member Senate Majority organization includes Republicans and Democrats united by shared values and a vision for Alaska’s future. It represents Alaskans from the Arctic Circle to Southeast.”

That is all nice and good, but it is rhetorical fluff that says nothing. But here is something that definitely does. The Alaska Republican Party put out a statement saying this about the move:

“The Senate Majority sticks together on budget votes and considers responsible budgeting one of its highest priorities.“

My thoughts immediately went to this:

As reported last week, Sen. Donny Olson is the biggest spending of the big spenders in the Legislature. He has billed Alaskans for $482,855.26 in expenses over the last five years. The GOP thinks this addition to the majority represents a commitment to “responsible budgeting?”

Seriously, is that supposed to be a funny joke?

Olson’s addition to the majority might say many things, and as I said above, I’m still looking into exactly what that is. The one thing I can definitively say is his addition does not say is fiscal responsibility.

It is a shame too. House and Senate Republicans have been aggressively trying to brand their efforts as “we need to get a handle on spending” as demonstrated in this video by Rep. Shelley Hughes:

You. The gap. What’s the connection? Every Alaskan needs to know what’s at stake. This isn’t a year to tune out what’s happening in Juneau. Tune in, Alaska!

Posted by Representative Shelley Hughes on Sunday, February 7, 2016

The addition of Olson says whatever it is legislative Republicans care about about, it isn’t getting a handle on spending. If they did, they’d make an example of Olson, not invite him to the trough.

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