AJOC EDITORIAL: Legislators have only selves to blame for vetoes

The 29th session of the Alaska Legislature is starting to resemble the final scene of Reservoir Dogs when everyone ends up dead.

Gov. Bill Walker dropped the veto hammer on $1.3 billion worth of state spending on June 29 after the House Finance Committee refused to even allow a floor vote on using part of the Permanent Fund earnings to bridge a budget deficit of almost $4 billion.

Democrats and Republicans alike howled at the $666 million cut to the Permanent Fund Dividend appropriation — setting it at $1,000 this year versus a projected $2,000 — and the House Finance co-chairs Mark Neuman and Steve Thompson issued a whiny press release about Walker vetoing $430 million in oil tax credit payments that no one disputes are fully owed to companies who’ve already spent that money in the state.

What, exactly, did these people think was going to happen?

It is rich that Rep. Chris Tuck, leader of the House Democrats, would put out a statement that Walker is “playing politics” with the budget after his caucus has done nothing but play politics over oil tax credits this entire session.

To read their press release that contains Tuck’s statement, you’d think the oil tax credits are a discretionary expense. They aren’t, and the Democrats know it.

To celebrate the state sticking it to companies that invested in the state in good faith tells you all you need to know about how seriously they take their responsibility to create a stable financial climate for the companies they expect to pay for everything.

The state cannot get out of paying this money. Period. Full stop. We can pay it now or we can pay it later, but the amount isn’t going to change.

It’s a rash and destructive action by Walker as well, who is trotting out his new CEO of the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. to attempt to convince legislators the state can go into the private markets and finance a $45 billion LNG export project.

Really? How does the state convince investors that Alaska is a good place to put their money when for two years running the state has failed to make good on what it owes?

Some of that money is no doubt owed to Furie and to BlueCrest, who began producing gas and oil, respectively, within the last year. Surely the state isn’t collecting its royalty share of that production while it is reneging on paying tax credits. That would only be fair.

The guess here is that Furie and BlueCrest wouldn’t be operating for very long if they refused to make their royalty payments to the state, but it’s becoming crystal clear that Walker and his fellow Democrats think this is a one-way street.

Absent from Walker’s vetoes were the automatic “merit” pay raises for state employees. The absence becomes conspicuous when considering that the amount due for raises next fiscal year is larger than what Walker vetoed from K-12 funding and the University of Alaska System.

Neither the governor or the Legislature comes off well here, and like the end of Reservoir Dogs, it doesn’t matter who shot first or who killed Nice Guy Eddie.

Nobody walks out alive.

Andrew Jensen can be reached at andrew.jensen@alaskajournal.com.

Updated: 
06/29/2016 - 8:27pm

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