Today is day 35.
‘A nightmare proposal’
Alaska’s still really in the early stages of understanding Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy’s budget. It makes cuts to nearly every corner of state government (except for a few, like the governor’s office) and comes with a plethora of legislative changes (most of which aren’t out, yet). One of the biggest changes is outside of the budget: Senate Bill 57 would repeal municipalities’ ability to tax oil and gas property, sweeping up more than $400 million in local property taxes for the state.
It’ll hit the North Slope Borough hardest with a whopping $372 million targeted by the cuts, but the other end of the pipeline would also be particularly hard hit. Valdez would lose some $38 million in property taxes, which is 88 percent of its property taxes or 80 percent of its total revenue.
Valdez Mayor Jeremy O’Neil called it a “nightmare proposal” in a scorching letter published on Saturday to Facebook.
“The nightmare proposal of SB 57 is a State power grab, wrapped in a malignant cost shift, wrapped in the age old government fallacy of ‘we know what’s good for you, better than you do.’” You would expect such tactics from extremists who ultimately turn their citizens into beggars,” O’Neil wrote. “Mr. Dunleavy, never in the history of our state has this worked. Creating a structure of massive losers to fill budget gaps, creates division, implants fear, and hurts everyone.”
Dunleavy’s grace period is over for the Valdez mayor, whose post has been shared nearly 500 times since Saturday.
“In light of recent circumstances, I respectfully ask you to resign,” O’Neil wrote. “Your cringe-worthy press conference on Wednesday was a low point in Alaska politics. It hit rock bottom when you were asked whether our citizens should consider moving from the State as a response to the vision you put forward of our future, and you replied, ‘people will need to do what they need to do. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined a more paternalistic, uninspired or destructive response, from our State’s highest official.”
This week we’ll have all three of the traditional legislative addresses with U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski leading things off at 11 a.m. Tuesday. Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Joel Bolger is at 11 a.m. on Wednesday (we’ll see what he has to say about Friday court hours), and U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan will close things out at 11 a.m. on Thursday.
Circling the wagons
All but one Fairbanks-area representative (Rep. Dave Talerico) signed on with the House coalition after the group finally came together on Thursday. After winning his seat by one vote at the Alaska Supreme Court with the help of the Alaska Republican Party, Rep. Bart LeBon became the coalition’s 25th member and landed a seat on the House Finance Committee in the process.
“Either we go as a group, or we don’t go at all,” LeBon told the Anchorage Daily News.
Like the Valdez mayor’s letter to Dunleavy, the Fairbanks delegation is concerned about Dunleavy’s proposed cuts and is locking arms. Government spending makes up a surprisingly big chunk of the “new dollars” coming into the community whether it be through the federal government, university system, state government, schools and local government.
North Pole Rep. Tammie Wilson will take over as co-chair of the House Finance Committee and Fairbanks Democratic Rep. Adam Wool will also get a seat on the House Finance Committee.
That’s all music to the ears of House Majority Leader Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, who said the cuts proposed by Dunleavy are too deep and too fast. In earlier interviews, Thompson said he was particularly concerned about the cuts to the university.
“I think everybody is very concerned. They haven’t had a chance yet to dig into the details to see what kind of ramifications it might have,” Thompson told the News-Miner. “I’m pleased to see LeBon and Wilson on Finance. We feel like we can pull together with (Democrats) Grier Hopkins and Adam Wool to look out for Fairbanks. It’s going to be a tough session.
“We all want to reduce spending, but maybe not through such a drastic approach,” he said.
Fairbanks has been notorious for circling the wagons when it comes to just about any big issue so hopefully they’re aiming out this time.
Tweet thread of the weekend
A play in two acts pic.twitter.com/fx4arrHHxe
— TJ (@ThomasPresley) February 16, 2019