My Turn: Governor’s endowment proposal is good for Alaska

  • By TARA JOLLIE
  • Wednesday, November 4, 2015 1:04am
  • Opinion

Alaska’s future is bright if our Legislator’s support Gov. Bill Walker’s plan to gain stability under his Permanent Fund endowment proposal.

We, the public, cannot offer the typical knee-jerk reaction to the “don’t touch the PFD” sentiment that is so common. We must now use the wealth the state has accumulated to stabilize our future, avoid an immediate out migration and a deep recession. We must let our elected leaders know we won’t kill them at the polls (in the not too distant election) if they venture in, thoroughly vet the proposal and bring this idea to fruition. It is time.

We need courageous leadership this legislative session to move forward to fiscal stability. Just because an election is coming up is no excuse to kick the can down the road, stick one’s head in a hole and avoid doing something big. Think BIG.

I hope to see a robust discussion on the governor’s proposal — and all other potential revenue streams and budget cuts this session. I hope other Alaskans will join me in tuning into the televised sessions. I will be watching to see if our elected leaders stand up for Alaskans and face this crisis.

I can say Gov. Walker has reached out in many forums to engage the public in the fiscal discussion and I think his sovereign wealth model is brilliant. Now, the ball is in the legislative court.

To address the future, we must get some answers in review of recent past acts and ask: If Alaska has been flush with money for years, what happened?”

Three bad things happened: The passage of Senate Bill 21; the $14 million defeat of its repeal; and the crash of oil prices.

Two good things happened: The defeat of Gov. Sean Parnell, who was too friendly with oil companies; and the election of Gov. Walker, a true Alaskan.

This general election only got the problem halfway fixed; now we must watch the incumbents in Alaska’s House and Senate this session and see if they act in the state’s best interests before discussion of the next election.

At the very least, the public deserves some discussion on the passage of SB21. It must be asked of incumbents who voted yes on SB21: What were you thinking? Why were you so generous with the industry? Why weren’t you willing to just amend ACES? And most importantly: What are you going to do differently to fix things? A yes on SB21 in and of itself does not make the incumbent a bad leader. Their answers as to “What were you thinking?” is important.

Right now, as we head into the next legislative session, we can observe and hope for leadership to emerge. Will glowing leadership emerge and rise to the occasion? Will our elected officials work in earnest with the governor on the divisive issues such as the buyout of TransCanada shares and/or Walker’s sovereign wealth model? Or, will the GOP majority choose to obstruct and ignore the Governor like they did last session on the Medicaid expansion issue? Will they simply table any real work and drag their feet to avoid the hard issues because of the upcoming election? Will others in the body stand about quietly, putting up with this kind of arrogant political gamesmanship?

Only time will tell. I’ll take good notes.

If small minds, and personal political agendas, are allowed to prevail in the upcoming session, the loud sucking sound of a leadership vacuum we hear now will only get louder.

It’s a leadership challenge. Stay tuned, because second session of the 29th Legislature promises to be a good one.

• Tara Jollie has worked as the deputy commissioner for the Alaska Department of Labor and as director of Community and Regional Affairs. She also writes and publishes LeadDogAlaska.

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