It took again a second special session for the Legislature to produce a FY18 operational budget, but they are still trying to work out a longterm plan to put the state on a sustainable trajectory.
Do they know the anxiety it causes among Alaskans when every year it’s a cliff hanger situation whether or not we have a budget? As soon as the special session was called in, my email box was inundated with emails from Alaska State agencies that outlined what would be shuttered in the event of the Legislature’s failure to agree on an operating budget.
That gave me a good enough jolt and I almost saw the point of a prepper mentality, where one gets prepared for the time when all else fails. I’m kidding. But I can only imagine the anxiety felt by state employees who have to fear for their jobs and their financial stability.
The House Majority proposed a plan that included a state income tax to at least secure the state’s expenditure on education. The Senate Republicans shot that down. The two sides seem so deeply entrenched that a compromise to figure out a fiscal plan seems ever more elusive.
One side wants to cut more services to Alaskans, the other side wants to squeeze money out of us.
What would a business do when caught in a similar situation? They would bring a third-party consultant with a detached and cool attitude and the ability to see things from the outside to suggest evidence-based solutions that worked somewhere else. Most certainly, we are not the only state in the world that went from oil riches to rags within a short period of time.
Maybe it’s time to bring in some clever minds from other northern countries and to look at other models of state financing that work in similar settings. I don’t hear the Swedes or Norwegians or Icelandic folks complaining.
What do they do right and where did we get it wrong?
Maybe it’s time to look outside the box for solutions. —D.H.—