AJOC EDITORIAL: Democrats destroying the village to save it
Democrats in Juneau deserve credit for at least one thing: what they lack in good ideas they more than make up for in chutzpah.
Now 10 days from a government shutdown at the time of this writing, the legislative session has become a monkey fight inside a clown car driving into a dumpster fire.
The House Majority threw a tantrum last week after Gov. Bill Walker took away their income tax woobie in his proposed compromise to end the standoff with the Senate by passing an 11th hour budget funded entirely with the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve including a $2,200 dividend check that will cost the state more than $1.3 billion on top of its $2.7 billion deficit.
Like a child who cleans their room by stuffing all the toys and dirty laundry into a closet, House Majority leaders then proceeded to claim that they had done their job by passing a budget and asked for a cookie.
House Republicans aren’t completely blameless in this mess, either. Half their caucus, including their leader Charisse Millett, voted for the budget-busting PFD. Perhaps she could better spend her time trying to figure out what her principles are rather than combing Gavel to Gavel footage looking for reporters goofing off in the gallery while her members make ridiculous analogies to Pearl Harbor, Ho Chi Minh and Vladimir Putin.
Some soul-searching is probably required when you’re on the wrong side of a vote by Les Gara.
But what the House Majority argument boils down to is this: they are willing to drive with the pedal down over the fiscal cliff if they can’t skim $700 million from Alaskans’ paychecks and double the tax rates on the beleaguered oil industry.
They must destroy the village in order to save it.
And here comes the chutzpah.
On June 20, S&P Global Ratings put the State of Alaska back on credit watch negative as a result of the impasse. House Democrats immediately put out a statement claiming the notice vindicated their plan.
Never mind that the state would be lucky to end up with junk bond status from the ratings agencies if the Senate approved their budget and Walker signed it.
Democrats keep tweeting about Kansas, where a Republican Legislature rolled back previous tax cuts to boost state services. They fail to note that the tax increases in Kansas are projected to raise about $600 million from a population of nearly 3 million to fill a budget deficit of about $350 million.
House Democrats want to raise taxes by more than that during a recession on a population a quarter the size in a state with some $17 billion in accessible savings accounts.
The comparison isn’t even apples and oranges. It’s apples and ham hocks.
Under the Democrats’ plan, middle class earners would get hammered while their favored constituencies of state employees and the failing education system are held harmless.
As an aside, when are Democrats ever going to be held accountable for the results of an education system they own and operate that consistently delivers some of the worst outcomes in the nation?
More than half of our high school graduates need remedial English and math education at the university level. Herb Schroeder, the founder of an actual education success story with the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, calculated that it costs the state and students $42 million per year trying to make up the ground lost in a K-12 system that spends more per capita than almost any other state.
That we find ourselves standing on the brink of a state government shutdown is truly inexcusable.
Both the Senate and House agreed on some major fiscal reforms at the beginning of the session: using the Permanent Fund earnings, guaranteeing a dividend of $1,000 or $1,250, and eliminating cashable oil tax credits for small developers.
Passing the agreed-upon measures would have set the state on a sounder fiscal path and could have been done months ago, but the Democrats can’t and won’t change their tax-and-spend stripes.
They cannot accept the fact that the state does not yet need an income tax, and refuse to recognize that there is not a bottomless pool of money to drain from the oil industry that has seen thousands of layoffs and now prices slipping back toward the breakeven point on the North Slope.
They keep calling a restructured Permanent Fund and smaller dividend an income tax on all Alaskans in a tortured bending of the language. The IRS certainly treats the PFD as income, but in no way is merely existing within the borders of the 49th State the same as working for a paycheck.
Then again, not knowing the difference between what is earned and what is given is what makes them Democrats.
Andrew Jensen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.