Story Last modified at 10:12 a.m. on Thursday, March 17, 2011
Time to get serious about our government
Editor's note: The Alaska Star asked our area's representatives and senators for their input on this year's legislative session. For the next two weeks, these public servants will share their impressions and work load with us. One senator or representative will be represented each week. We thank them for taking the time to communicate with their constituents during this busy time. Meanwhile, we encourage readers to share their views, too. What do you think of the legislative process and the priorities for our community and state? We welcome your letters to the editor. So far, we have heard from Rep. Dan Saddler, Sen. Cathy Giessel, and Rep. Bill Stoltze. Next week will be Sen. Charlie Huggins.
Today, Alaska faces a very uncertain future. With the price of oil steadily increasing every day and the exploration of that oil declining at an alarming rate, we must discuss meaningful planning for our state and its resources. We cannot sustain the kind of growth of government and its operations we have seen for the last several years with the decline of exploration and lack of new renewable projects.
It is time for Alaskans to get serious about their government and engage in our fiscal process and help trim our budget and utilize every available resource.
I am honored to be chairing a fiscal-policy working group that will create a plan and outline a policy for fiscal responsibility. The thought is simple: our expenditures should never exceed our revenues. We need to reduce our operating costs by catching up on our deferred maintenance and holding the line on numerous expanding programs. While it is the legislature's job to pass a budget for government operations and capital improvements, it is also our job to say no and work with our constituents to prioritize programs and live within our means.
Our business community is key to the success of our state. For too long we have had regulations and permitting processes in place that have served as barriers and hurdles to develop a diversified economy and sustain reasonable growth. While regulations are important, they shouldn't discourage opportunities and close our state to new business investments.
We are a young state with so much to prove, but with more to offer. Now is our opportunity to show the world that Alaska has what it takes. We need to modernize and improve our infrastructure and schools to attract businesses that will invest in our communities. It is important that we provide the proper and adequate training to our people, so Alaskans can fill Alaskan jobs.
Because of Alaska's current economic fortune, the rest of the country is watching us and wondering how we're doing it. There are 44 states, and the District of Columbia, that are facing budget deficits totaling more than $145 billion. Alaska has a projected surplus this year that continues to grow as the price of oil increases.
We need to invest our wealth to create more family-wage careers that will take the need for our government programs off the table and allow Alaskans to provide for themselves. We enjoy some of the lowest total tax rates of any state in the nation and we must protect that status.
The fiscal-policy working group will provide a framework to slow state government's growth to an affordable rate. With your input I will lead the group discussion and provide a way forward that caps spending, diversifies our economy, and focuses our goal to get more oil through the pipeline.
More oil in the pipeline means more exploration and more jobs for our neighbors. We have an opportunity to take advantage of the uncertainty in the Middle East by proving that Alaska is a dependable place that is open for business.
With your help and continued commitment to making our state better, we can and will solve these problems and establish a climate that provides opportunity for the next generation that is equal or better than what we have received.
Please do not hesitate to contact my office. I appreciate and value all input. You can reach me by e-mail: Representative_Anna_Fairclough@legis.state.ak.us or phone: (907) 694-8944. You can watch me live in action by visiting: http://alaskalegislature.tv/ or track legislation at by going to BASIS: www.legis.state.ak.us/basis\.
This article published in The Alaska Star on Thursday, March 17, 2011.