Alaska Politics


How about a say on tax, Permanent Fund?

Added by Editor on August 18, 2017.
Saved under Editorial

Here is a refreshing notion: Alaskans should have a say in whether they will consent to an income tax or the state monkeying around with the Alaska Permanent Fund.

That audacious idea comes from Republican Sen. Mike Dunleavy of Wasilla, who says both questions should go to a public advisory vote.

A gubernatorial candidate, Dunleavy told the Associated Press he thinks such a vote would reveal Alaskans do not believe government spending has not been cut enough and that they are not ready to allow government into their wallets and purses.

He could not, in our view, be more right.

“What I’m concerned about is that, right now, the discussion is how do I take a dollar out of your pocket and give it to your neighbor’s pocket as opposed to creating brand new money, brand new wealth, brand new jobs,” Dunleavy told the AP.

During the last, contentious legislative session, Dunleavy – a supporter of deeper budget cuts – was among those who floated the ballot idea, but it went nowhere as the debate raged over using the fund’s earnings and imposing an income tax. In the end, the Permanent Fund dividends were cut, but no tax or plan to use fund earnings was implemented.

There, indeed, should be a vote of the people on whether they will pay an income tax or allow the Permanent Fund to be used in some way to bridge the state’s chronic multibillion-dollar budget gap. The last time the state asked, the answer was a resounding “no.”

Dunleavy is right, too, that such a vote likely would again rock those who believe Alaskans are anxious to have government take their money while refusing to downsize.

Whether Dunleavy’s proposal gains traction will say a lot about whether state government in the future will work for Alaskans or vice versa. Having such a vote is a good idea. The only reason to oppose it is fear of the answer.


Trump puts Alaska projects on ice?


Alaska energy projects, and even the road to King Cove, may be put hold by the Trump Administration.

While Alaskans debate the wisdom of Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski opposing President Donald Trump on Obamacare and at seemingly every juncture, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is said to be calling business leaders from around the state, with a message that Trump is ready to put a lid on Alaska projects until Obamacare reform is passed.

Our sources in Washington say that Sen. Murkowski has received a frank call from Zinke, with the same message — that she has miscalculated one time too many in her opposition to Trump on issues of major importance, and her state will pay the price.

We are told that Sen. Dan Sullivan received a courtesy call today from Zinke. Sullivan is said to be “concerned” about Alaska’s economy as a result of the call.

Murkowski was quoted in the media today, defending herself against Trump: “How about just doing a little bit of governing around here?” A message to her press secretary this evening was not returned.

Meanwhile, rumors are swirling that all movement on off-shore oil development, ANWR and King Cove are about to come to a standstill after Murkowski voted to not move forward on a simple procedural vote that would bring Obamacare reform forward for debate.

Vice President Mike Pence had to cast the deciding vote after Sen. John McCain of Arizona left his treatment for brain cancer and came back to Washington to vote for the motion to proceed.

For her part, Murkowski has threatened to hold up confirmations of the president’s appointments. She has cancelled confirmations that were scheduled for tomorrow.

Trump criticized Murkowski today on Twitter, “Senator @lisamurkowski of the Great State of Alaska really let the Republicans, and our country, down yesterday. Too bad!”

Rep. Buddy Carter, a Georgia Republican, defended Trump’s criticism of Murkowski, saying “I think it’s perfectly fair,” “Let me tell you, somebody needs to go over there to that Senate and snatch a knot in their ass. I’m telling you, it has gotten to the point where how can you say ‘I voted for this last year, but I’m not going to vote for it this year’?”

All of this is very much in the heat of the moment. Alaska’s other congressional members, Sen. Sullivan and Congressman Don Young, are close with Zinke and are in good standing with the president. Rather than putting all of Alaska’s economy at peril, the Trump Administration may just put its relationship with Murkowski on ice, and award any “wins” to Sullivan and Young. We can hope.

The timing was especially awkward, since today Murkowski joined 35 senators in sending a letter to Zinke in support of the Department of the Interior’s new Outer Continental Shelf Five-Year Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019-2024.

The plan has the potential to boost Alaska’s economy, keep energy affordable, and reinforce the United States’ position as an energy dominant superpower. But that is now in peril, along with other agenda items important to Alaska, as our senior senator’s deteriorating relationship with the White House continues to fester.

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For Murkowski, a crisis of her own making (more on Lisa Story)

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