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June 17, 2021

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Republicans-know-best Strategy Failing Alaska

A few months ago, I explained why the Republican majorities running the Alaska House and Senate would be wise to accept a Democratic offer to put aside party politics and work together as one big caucus of the whole to address our fiscal crisis.

The last time we had a bipartisan Senate, it managed to come up with a fair oil tax structure, and put $16 billion in the bank. And thank God they did, because we’re living off that savings right now.

But no, Republicans rejected bipartisanship and decided to go it alone. After their successful partisan gerrymandering of a few years ago, they are in complete control of the Legislature; they count 80 percent of the Senate and almost 68 percent of the House in their caucuses.

They control every committee, which means they unilaterally decide which bills get heard and which ones pass. They impose and enforce a rule that no bill can pass unless that house’s Republican majority backs it.

They also have a rule that the Republican in charge of any legislative committee can unilaterally kill any bill that comes before her committee. This year, that has meant a bill to require all indoor workplaces be smoke-free — a proposed law with the support of 80 percent of Alaskans, and a clear majority of legislators — is being single-handedly strangled by Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux of Anchorage. Why? Because a handful of Kodiak bar owners don’t like it. (Side note: shouldn’t LeDoux move back to Kodiak if she isn’t prepared to represent the people of Muldoon? But I digress.)

So, what good works have Republican legislators produced with their supermajorities? They rejected a call for a Bipartisan Ways & Means Committee to develop a desperately needed state fiscal plan. They ignored virtually every Democratic proposal to find savings in the budget. In fact, with few notable exceptions, they buried every single bill a Democrat touched.

So how well is the Republicans-know-best strategy working for Alaskans? Well, they failed to complete their work by the adjournment deadline. Do they yet have a plan to deal with the $4 billion deficit bearing down on us? Nope. Not even close. Fix the system that has us paying the oil industry $700 million more in tax credits than we collect in production taxes? Nope. Again, not close.

Perhaps, you say, there is a perfectly good reason the Republican supermajorities have been unable to accomplish their primary constitutional responsibility, which is to pass a state budget. They can point out they’ve been extremely busy with other important state business. For example, they’ve…
Passed a bill clarifying that playing games at Chuck E. Cheese is not illegal gambling,

Passed a bill allowing the Blood Bank of Alaska to have specialized license plates,

Cut a deal to flush $32.5 million by overpaying for the palatial “Taj Mahawker” Legislative Information Office building downtown.

Fought to keep responsible sex education out of schools, while making sure as many students as possible carry guns on college campuses.

In short, when they weren’t focused on trivia, they were actually making the lives of Alaskans worse.

In the midst of a fiscal crisis, they could have looked at their own bloated travel budgets and unearned salaries. Republican Rep. Craig Johnson of Anchorage, a poster boy for wasted state spending, led an attack on the pay of nonlegislative state employees. You know, the ones who actually do the work — the DMV clerks, state troopers, firefighters, PFD processors, fish biologists, and so on.

Johnson and company launched this gambit after the regular legislative session ended, then tried to claim the majority had been working on it since the beginning of the session. Sure, Craig, just a coincidence that you introduced it the day after the regular session. Alaska has already reduced the number of full-time employees to the lowest level since 2008.

There’s a $4 billion budget gap so, of course Johnson, backed by the usual chorus of industry flying monkeys, is calling for a freeze in the pay of the state’s working stiffs to save $20 million. Apparently it took the House majority the entire legislative session to develop that tiny component of a budget deficit solution.

For those of you keeping score, $20 million is about two-thirds of the amount the Republicans agreed to overpay for the Taj MaHawker.

I’m almost afraid to ask, but what flavor of failed statecraft will the Republican majorities come up with next? Support for Gov. Walker’s plan for a balance of budget cuts and revenue increases? They’ve already told the governor to stuff himself, so I don’t think so.

Blame the Democrats? They’ll try it, but I can’t believe anyone is still dumb enough to fall for that. Some of our dimmer Republican bulbs will try the old standby of vilifying public employees, and some tea partiers will fall for that, as they always do.

The Republicans’ core objective will remain slavish adherence to their failed “conservative” ideology while making sure the tsunami doesn’t hit until they’ve gotten themselves and their friends to high ground.

As for the rest of us?

Get ready to swim.

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4 Responses to “Republicans-know-best Strategy Failing Alaska”
  1. mike from iowa says:

    Has anyone polled the masses to see if they think the state is moving in the right direction? Has anyone done a comprehensive poll to assess the mood of the populace in regards to where your state is headed? What about losing your yooooge state nest egg to greedy sumbitches and wingnuts?

  2. Andrew Walker says:

    We’ve given away billions to the oil companies and they’ve delivered on nothing they promised. We’ve wasted a ton of money, have no savings, and our republican run state government is headed straight for a cliff with no breaks or a parachute. Call me a nut, but I bet this was all intentional. The state republicans have been trying to get us to cash out the dividends for over 20 years now. What better way to get their hands on it than to create an artificial crisis where we have no choice but to “restructure” the dividends.

    • Andrew Walker says:

      Come to think of it Isn’t that what happened with the senate republican bailouts for the insurance, bankers, and automotive industries right before they slipped a bunch of special interest stuff in for all their rich buddies?

  3. J-BEAV says:

    Shannyn, you’re the best at calling a spade a spade!!! It seems like every day these bozo legislators come out claiming they are wearing a new wardrobe while strutting around buck naked. And then, the SAME legislators who made an illegal lease agreement are somehow to be trusted to BUY the LIO????

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