Show Me Your Budget
Show me a political flyer in Alaska and I’ll show you a candidate whose only reason for living is supporting the Permanent Fund and education, and fighting “government waste.”
There’s an old saying, “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” This week we got to see what the Republican majority in the Alaska Senate values. Rest assured, their budget, written by Sen. Pete Kelly, does not value birth control for irresponsible women.
In fact, amendments to accept millions in federal funds for family planning — to actually reduce abortions — were voted down by our “pro-family” Republicans. As far as they’re concerned, as soon as you have that kid, you’re on your own.
Amendments to invest in our children’s futures through pre-kindergarten education? No way. Kids, schmids. (Note to Republicans: those fetuses for which you can’t do enough eventually turn into actual children, for whom you can’t do too little. Remember that whole sanctity-of-life thingy? It should include education.)
Money to stem the tide of teacher layoffs? Try us next year.
Additional money for substance abuse for the state with the worst substance-abuse problems in America? Bor-ing.
Millions for new tennis courts in West Anchorage? We’re all over that, preserving the people’s right to wield rackets.
The budget is huge. In spite of all the for-the-cameras hand-wringing about “fiscal responsibility,” the Republican-controlled Legislature is about to pass one of the biggest budgets in state history, accompanied by a $2 billion deficit. But that’s not a problem for our legislators because they made sure the CEOs of Exxon, BP and ConocoPhillips get their full MBOs this year.
But I digress.
The Republicans rejected attempts to put $1 billion into the Permanent Fund to offset some of the revenues kissed off by Gov. Giveaway. Get used to budget deficits, my fellow Alaskans. Watch as legislators slowly drain the Permanent Fund: this year they took $1.3 million from it — instead of collecting oil taxes — to pay for more government services.
With the state headed toward bankruptcy, driven by multibillion-dollar annual deficits, retirees are calling for a cash infusion to protect their retirement accounts. The Legislature’s answer: Let ‘em eat cat food.
Legislators need that money for the “Taj MaHawker,” the better-than-new Legislative Office Building, with its glass elevators, maple walls and heated parking ramp.
You know, the deal Diamond Mike Hawker shrewdly negotiated with a well-connected GOP campaign contributor. Diamond Mike was able to arm-twist the owners into settling for not a penny more than quintuple the Legislature’s current rent. It will cost all of us an extra $50 million over the next 10 years.
Imagine this: The deal is so glaringly stupid that even the Senate majority was too embarrassed to defend it in public. That didn’t, however, stop the majority from blocking attempts to scuttle the deal.
And then there was the little matter of a $100,000 contract to another big GOP campaign contributor to pick out furniture for the Taj MaHawker. A sensible proposal to let staff choose the legislative love seats at no additional cost was rejected without debate.
Tell you what, I’ll equip the lounge lizards myself. Shopping for old white men will be my public service.
This legislative session has been so ugly — and the worst is yet to come — it makes me want to go into the wild to contemplate the idea of an Alaska without legislators. But I better hurry. Rep. Mia Costello has had the brilliant idea that we increase state park fees. How about $1 million a day per vehicle, Mia? We could use the money to cut oil taxes, to put more oil in the pipeline — yeah, that’s the ticket!
So, money for kids and retirees — bad. More money in the Permanent Fund — really bad. Raiding the Permanent Fund instead of collecting oil taxes to pay for more government — good. Public money for legislators’ campaign contributors — really good.
Will Alaskans remember all the Mike Hawkers come November and give them their walking papers? Not bloody likely.
And why is that? I’ll be damned if I can figure it out.
This article is cross-posted from The Anchorage Daily News.