Leg with Louie – May 18

The Legislature has gone home. It is safe to come out from your hiding place.

It was a subdued finale for the 30th AK Legislature, though the political elements of a street brawl to end all street brawls were there. Passage of SB 26, cracking open the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve to fund state government proved to be the key that unlocked the last door of the maze allowing our poor legislators to return home to lick their wounds and/or gloat and prepare for campaign season.

The SB 26 approach can and likely will turn permanent fund earnings into our main source of state revenue for many years. Permanent Fund Money, by the way, is your money and your grandchildren’s money – and it is being funneled into the gaping hole where corporate tax money should be, where income tax money should be, where out of state worker income tax money should be.

Next year’s crop of legislators will be faced with the same problems that the 30th Legislature grappled with but to a lesser degree, now that the new funding source is in place. Expect no bills to reverse SB 26 anytime soon, and expect more resistance from industry cheer-squads to any increases in any tax ever.

Editorial Note: If we give credence to these industry and business groups who say we cannot increase contributions to pay for a government, we cannot tackle climate change, we cannot modernize our fish habitat permitting system – we are backing ourselves into a colonial mindset, and we are endangering the future.

The session is over. It is time to enjoy Spring gathering strength around us. It is time to let the 30th AK Legislature chillax for a while as they prepare to fight individually for their House and Senate seats. It is time to enjoy a cup of coffee and read the Anchorage Daily News in your boxer shorts – just beware the ubiquity of an ad paid for by a consortium of global corporations aligned under Stand For Alaska shouting that fish habitat laws must not be changed in Alaska. Many of these same folks have funded efforts to kill new industry taxes in Alaska, and guess what? As a result of their efforts you now have a big fat bullseye on your PFD. Should we trust this group with the long-term health of our salmon?

Louie Flora, Government Affairs Director

A brief post-mortem:

There is no adequate way to grade the performance of a state legislature with any objectivity, so there is no point in awarding the 30th AK Legislature a C grade for its work, though I am inclined to give them a C+ or B-.

As discussed above, a somewhat pyrrhic victory was achieved with the passage of SB 26 and this bill will likely be the shorthand that history relies on to describe the doings of this legislature. Of additional importance: A major source of financial hemorrhaging was fixed when the legislature tackled oil and gas tax credits, legislation allowing business owners to invest in clean energy and to pay the investment cost on their property tax bill passed, as did legislation allowing ratepayers to invest in clean energy and to pay it off on their electric bill. Bills proposing new revenue sources for AK were vetted and voted on, though many did not pass. For the first time in decades, the AK State House passed an income tax to the Senate – which promptly killed the bill. Legislation to protect wolves actually made it out of the House – and actually got a hearing in the Senate. HB 199, a bill to increase salmon habitat protection received numerous hearings. Nasty bills like SB 173 that sought to protect utilities from liability for pollution caused by their power poles were put on hold. A bill which exemplified bad public process – renaming popular local wildlife viewing and recreation areas without a public process to “hunting preserves” was not allowed to move forward.

The House was wracked by scandals, and the Senate had some too. In the end, some good work was done, some bad work was done, some worse work was killed, some good work was killed. The 30th AK Legislature endured the most meeting days in state history in 2017. Lots of members are now retiring if that tells you anything.

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