Allen Hippler

GUEST COMMENTARY: Spending cap would help restore trust in government

Trust in government is at an all-time low. Every year, the well-respected research firm Edelman Data &Intelligence surveys thousands of people across the world to measure attitudes about trust and credibility. Throughout its 21-year history, the report has revealed fascinating insights into which institutions are deemed credible and trustworthy. This year, business has emerged as the most trusted institution, replacing government. Business is the only institution deemed ethical and competent, and outscores government by 48 points on competency alone. These attitudes reflect the stellar response to COVID-19, with business finding innovative and safe ways to continue delivering their goods and services, and the rapid development of a vaccine. While those of us in the business community appreciate finding ourselves in the top spot, we realize Alaskans must trust their government for important policy decisions. This year, those decisions are especially urgent. In the spirit of being helpful, the Alaska Chamber offers a solution to restore some of the trust Alaskans have lost in state-level leadership. A real, meaningful cap on state government spending would go a long way in showing Alaskans government can be trusted with public funds. The concept of a spending cap is not new or complicated. Individuals and families usually match their spending to their income, and they understand that blowing budgets is bound to catch up with them eventually. Alaskans want government to acknowledge this basic tenet of budgeting. While the concept of spending from emergency savings under extraordinary circumstances may make some sense, watching years of deficit spending created by past years of overspending has contributed to the dramatic erosion of trust in government. The State of Alaska technically has a spending cap in place now, but it lacks teeth. This is why the State was able to ramp us spending so dramatically a decade ago when oil prices were high, and money was rolling in. Because no effective spending limits were in place, the size and scale of the state’s operating budget grew many times faster than the ability to sustain such growth. Now we find ourselves with the unpleasant reality of annual budget cuts just to get the state back to a place where it can pay for basic services. No one enjoys that painful process, and we sympathize with state leaders trying to solve problems with no easy solutions. That is why the Alaska Chamber has such a strong record of supporting governors who take our fiscal crisis seriously. Even when the business community does not like every aspect of the solution, we have always encouraged our politicians to develop a long-term fiscal plan to give all Alaskans confidence in our future. This brings us back to supporting a real spending cap. If state leaders plan to ask Alaskans to contribute more to state revenues, they must guarantee that dramatic overspending will not recur once more money is available. We know aspects of a comprehensive fiscal plan will be difficult. But, if they occur in concert with a robust spending cap, Alaskans will trust that their sacrifices of today will not be wasted tomorrow. Any realistic fiscal plan requires this to be in place at the same time as the sacrifices the citizens will make, so the time to establish a cap is now. In plain terms, we encourage our state leaders to put a cap in place that shows Alaskans government is legally prohibited from long-term unsustainable spending again. Crafting law that guarantees downward pressure on spending also forces legislators and the governor to make tough choices; if only a set amount of dollars can be spent, real choices about what to fund will be mandatory. Several municipalities across the state have lived and thrived under the constraints of tax caps for decades, the Municipality of Anchorage being the most well-known example. While taxpayers in Anchorage grumble at waste in local government, imagine how much worse the situation would be if no cap had been in place! Given the widespread lack of trust in government, state leaders codifying tough spending limits are likely the only way Alaskans buy into the idea of creating new revenue streams. Once trust in government is restored, or at least improved, the state can move forward with making the tough decisions in front of us. That sets up the entire state, including the business community and the Alaskans who work within it, for success. Allen Hippler is the chairman of the Alaska Chamber.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Ballot Measure One will hurt investment in our state

The Alaska Chamber serves as the statewide voice of Alaska business, a job we take seriously. Our membership ranges from small, mom-and-pop businesses to large, multinational corporations. The shutdowns and mandates related to COVID-19 have dealt a devastating blow to all of them, with no end in sight. To say it’s tough for anyone to do business in Alaska right now is an understatement. Ballot Measure One will make it worse. Starting a business or making new investments involves taking on risk, a factor that must be managed before any potential investor pulls the trigger on a new venture. Even in a roaring economy, investment is risky. Seemingly solid business plans fail for reasons few could anticipate: market disruptions, trade agreements, and shifting consumer demands are a few examples. Many of these risks fall outside of an individual’s control. The chamber’s focus is on promoting practices that Alaska can control. Public policy is one such area of emphasis. That is precisely why our membership is so strongly opposed to Ballot Measure One. To willingly impose this kind of tax increase on any industry or business at this point would be a devastating choice. Ballot Measure One will set our economy back. We have a long, hard road ahead of us to achieve economic recovery under the best circumstances, and we should not be asked to impose punitive new taxes on Alaska’s largest economic driver. Such a move is foolish, and will hurt everyday Alaskans in the form of lost jobs and decreased business investments in our state. For all the bumper sticker talking points about “fair share” and “our oil,” Ballot Measure One proponents cannot hide from the basic fact that businesses invest where the rules are fair and predictable. Investors have choices, and punitive new taxes will persuade investors to look to more stable areas to deploy their capital. It is not a gamble we will win. Not in good economic times, and especially not now. Additionally, the ballot box is perhaps the worst place to decide complex tax policy. Voters are presented with two, overly simplistic options on Ballot Measure One: Yes, or no. There is no “yes, with amendments” or “no, but maybe once the pandemic is over.” It is an all-or-nothing proposition. The Alaska Legislature is the appropriate venue to take up complex public policy. Recently, the state changed tax regimes with respect to the oil industry; if we wish to once again change the rules, our elected leaders can tackle the issue of oil taxes with all the analysis and data they need to make an informed decision. Alaskans can and should hold them accountable, and participate in the well-defined public process. Ballot Measure One is the wrong idea at the wrong time. It will slow Alaska’s economic recovery, meaning fewer jobs for Alaskans across the state. As an organization focused on creating opportunities for Alaska businesses to succeed, we urge Alaskans to vote no on Ballot Measure One in November. Allen Hippler is the chair of the Alaska Chamber.

Alaska Chamber begins year with new energy for business advocacy

Alaska lawmakers convened in Juneau late last month and the Chamber kicked the session off with face-to-face meetings with the governor, members of the administration, and nearly every legislator. This year’s Chamber team combines fresh energy with some familiar faces. At the top of that list, and leading the Chamber’s efforts, are Kati Capozzi and Allen Hippler. Alaska Chamber President and CEO Kati Capozzi is a career advocate for Alaska business. Capozzi took the helm at the Chamber in 2019. In many ways, assuming leadership of Alaska’s premier business association is a homecoming for Capozzi. She once led the Chamber’s advocacy events and communications before focusing on resource development issues and ballot initiatives. Capozzi brings a statewide network of contacts along with a wealth of regulatory and policy knowledge. Allen Hippler, vice president at Northrim Bank and longtime Alaska Chamber board member, took over as chairman at the Chamber’s annual fall forum last October. Hippler has served as treasurer, on the Executive Committee, and as the Legislative Affairs Committee Chair. Kati Capozzi, President/CEO, Alaska Chamber I love that we start the year with business leaders from across the state converging on Juneau. The challenge this year is to advance business issues with a legislature fraught with how to address the lack of a fiscal plan. Not to mention what should prove to be an eventful election year. But we have the team to do just that. I think the Alaska Chamber will be able to make great strives this year. We have sharp, hardworking legislators on both sides of the aisle and a governor that’s willing to listen to the business community and is bullish on growing the economic pie. We have an Alaska delegation in Washington that is fighting and winning on resource and regulatory issues here at home. No other state is enjoying the federal ‘wins’ like Alaska is right now. I’m excited for 2020. Allen Hippler, Board Chair, Alaska Chamber The Alaska Chamber’s mission is statewide, and we take that mission very seriously. We have a number of meaningful positions that impact every employer in our state. Look at our natural resources, for instance. We’ve been working to ensure that Alaska has the best, most scientifically sound, permitting process in the world. I see the tremendous impact of our natural resources when I visit my family in the Valley. I see it with my friends and previous coworkers in bush Alaska. And I see it with the businesses coming into the bank. Alaska is one of the few states that doesn’t have a personal finance or economic education requirement at the K-12 level. Providing access to financial learning is a business issue, it’s a social welfare issue, and it’s a workforce development issue in every Alaska community. It’s an issue that businesses, educators, families, and legislators can all get behind, and there’s no reason why we can’t get that requirement in place this year. What do I want to accomplish as board chair? I want visibility. Front-of-mind awareness. I want the economic issues that let families live and work in Alaska to be the most discussed topics in the legislature and in the media.” ^ For a complete review of the Alaska Chamber’s 2020 advocacy platform, visit alaskachamber.com
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