Rep. Chris Tuck

GUEST COMMENTARY: House Majority: We won’t agree to ‘easy fix’ of PFD cut alone

Last week, in the absence of a true and complete fix to the state’s fiscal crisis from the Alaska Senate, the House passed, with bipartisan support, an amendment funding a full Permanent Fund Dividend as provided by law. This was not some bargaining tactic or political maneuver; instead, it was us saying that we are fighting for you, hardworking Alaskans, and your money. We have said from the beginning that we cannot support a plan that fills the deficit on the backs of Alaska workers, seniors and children. The current PFD-only plan supported by the Senate does just that, as a cut to the PFD reduces the income of every Alaskan. The Senate says they are the “only thing standing between Alaskans and an income tax” yet they are pushers of a plan that levies the most inequitable, unfair and economically damaging tax of them all: a $1,250 reduction in income for every Alaska man, woman and child. It seems that the only people the Senate wants to protect are out-of-state workers, the wealthy and shareholders of multinational oil companies. It is unfortunate that Gov. Bill Walker sided with the Senate in their effort to cut the PFD once again. By not including Senate Bill 23 (the capital budget) in the second special session call, the possibility of a full PFD was virtually eliminated. Additionally, with no other revenue options in the call, we may be forced to take the Senate’s word that they’ll discuss actual fixes to our fiscal mess (i.e. new revenues, including higher taxes on the oil companies) at a later date. This is not a good way to negotiate a compromise that will prevent the threat of a government shutdown from coming up year after year after year. We all know the current state of Alaska’s finances, and they are not good. But there is a way out of this mess, where all Alaskans contribute fairly to the vibrant and bright future of our state, where our communities are safe and our kids get a great education, where all Alaskans have an opportunity to achieve great things, be self-sufficient, and provide for themselves and their families. But until we put a comprehensive fiscal plan into place, we will oppose fiscal Band-Aids that put the burden on working Alaskans. The Alaska House Majority Coalition continues to strive for a fair, balanced and comprehensive fiscal plan that will bring certainty to Alaska families and businesses. We will continue to negotiate with the Senate and the House Republican Minority to achieve one. And we are firmly committed to averting a government shutdown. But until everyone comes to the table ready to find reasonable compromise and address our fiscal realities, we will not simply give away your money as an easy fix. Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, a Republican, is the chair of the House Rules Committee, and represents House District 15, which covers East Anchorage. Rep. Chris Tuck, a Democrat, is the House Majority Leader, and represents House District 23, which stretches from Midtown to South Anchorage.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Alaska must stand up to corrupt Real ID Act

I am disappointed that the Walker Administration has given in to the fear tactics and misinformation of the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration by putting forth legislation to make Alaska implement the Federal REAL ID Act and pay for it ourselves. It is my duty to set the record straight and make sure people have the facts they need to defend their rights. The Department of Administration has been reporting that if we do not agree to comply with REAL ID we will not be allowed to use our state IDs to get through TSA checkpoints or to get on base. In reality there is no existing or proposed federal law or regulation requiring ID to travel at all. A recent reply to a four-year-old Freedom of Information Act request to the DHS has shown that 77,000 people per year fly without ID, and only 2 percent who try are ever turned away. Not only that, it is the Pentagon and individual base commanders who decide what ID is required to get on base. The Department of Homeland Security does not have authority over the Pentagon. That is why the DHS instead uses fear tactics and misinformation to try and force REAL ID on the states. As background, the REAL ID Act was never debated by Congress, but rather was hidden in a 2005 emergency appropriations bill. It is barely six pages long, but it opens the door for the Department of Homeland Security, the TSA, and outside private organizations to control the identification cards we need to exercise our inalienable rights of work, travel, gun ownership, and privacy. But only if we give them that power by putting REAL ID into our state laws. Alaskans are being told that under the governor’s bill, they will be allowed to choose between a REAL ID and a regular ID, but this is inherently false. Under the REAL ID Act, noncompliant IDs must marked “NOT FOR OFFICIAL PURPOSES.” The old ID will be gone forever, and if you can’t come up with the required paperwork to get a REAL ID, you will be stuck with a bogus ID. Regardless of which ID you get, your personal data will be entered into a private nationwide database where you will no longer be able to obtain any information about it or have any control over it. The REAL ID Act requires each state to “provide electronic access to all other States to information contained in the motor vehicle database of the State.” For years it was impossible for states to comply with this requirement until a private organization, the American Association of Automobile Administrators, or AAMVA, and a private company in Midlothian, Va., named Clerus Solutions created a private national database called SPEXS to satisfy this mandate. Since then DHS has left it to AAMVA to set the standards for the national database. Surprise, surprise. Clerus Solutions is made up of former AAMVA executives. The founder and chairman of the Board of Clerus Solutions actually helped Congress write the REAL ID Act. He and the president and CEO, the senior vice president, and the senior business analyst all were top executives at AAMVA before forming Clerus Solutions and the SPEXS database. In January of 2017, without permission from the Legislature, the Department of Administration uploaded almost every Alaskan’s personal ID data including much of our Social Security information to the SPEXS Database. The Social Security Administration expressly warns against using social security information in this manner, and the REAL ID Act does not specifically require that such information be shared, but the Administration has defended the practice because it is an AAMVA requirement. AAMVA and its subcontractors are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act or any other state or federal public information laws. There is no way to correct mistakes or obtain information about the data they have compiled on you. In addition, they can change the data requirements and the states must give it to them or lose REAL ID compliance. Neither DHS nor the TSA will appear before any of our committees or truthfully answer any of our questions about the REAL ID Act. It is almost pointless to try because they can expand or change the requirements of the REAL ID Act at any time by publishing them to the Federal Register, which they have done numerous times. Rest assured, I would not be standing up to DHS and the TSA like this if we did not have a much better alternative available to us. For $55 anyone who can get a REAL ID can get a passport card. 65 percent of Alaskans already have a passport or passport card. A passport card is actually better than a REAL ID because it will get you access to everywhere a REAL ID will and more. A passport card can be obtained through a post office and only requires two pieces of documentation, whereas a REAL ID requires four pieces of documentation and a personal visit to a DMV, which many communities don’t even have, and a passport card is protected by federal public records and privacy laws. If you or someone you love has ever been wronged by the TSA, you know it is a bad idea to hand over control of our identity cards to the DHS and private organizations. Please join me in calling upon Gov. Walker to withdraw his legislation and instead sue the federal government to defend our state and federal constitutional rights to travel freely, to have privacy, and to manage our own affairs. Rep. Chris Tuck is the Majority Leader in the Alaska House of Representatives.
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