Monthly Archives: March 2015

Breaking Bad: House Finance starts “sponsoring” talks on taxes and the PFD …

Screenshot 2015-03-29 14.48.29Last Thursday the House Finance Committee sponsored — not just presented or hosted, but sponsored — a “lunch and learn” entitled “Fiscal Reality – Exploring Scenarios to Reclaim Budget Solvency.”  A video of the presentation is available here

As the Alaska Dispatch reported after, the presentation focused mostly on options to raise revenue.

New revenues could come from things like income taxes, sales taxes or other taxes, he said. … Teal also showed several options for using the Permanent Fund to close the gap. One option is spending the earnings reserve, which the Legislature can do now legally but not necessarily politically. It could also switch to an endowment-type system called percent of market value ….

Toward the end of the presentation, Rep. Steve Thompson, the House Finance Co-Chair who moderated the presentation (Vice Chair Rep. Dan Saddler is in the picture above next to him) said one reason for the presentation was because he and others were concerned that cutting state spending too deeply could “crash” the economy, and that it was time to start discussing options to avoid that.

But neither Rep. Thompson, Rep. Saddler nor anyone else during the presentation acknowledged that taking money out of the private economy — which both taxes and cutting the Permanent Fund Dividend would do — would simply transfer the pain to private sector participants, and potentially leave Alaskans as a whole far worse off.   Continue reading

The Alaska budget, the state legislature, percentages and other significant numbers …

The Alaska State Capitol building, Downtown Juneau, Alaska.Percentages and other numbers are interesting things.  By selecting different sets you can make things look small or large.

For example, Rep. Lora Reinbold defended her vote last Thursday against the Operating Budget in part using a percentage, claiming that the proposed budget only cut 5% from spending.  Looking at the actual numbers compiled by the Legislative Finance Division (LegFinance) tells a different story, however.

Using LegFinance’s analysis of the final House bill as a base, Rep. Reinbold’s percentage is right if you focus only on certain categories of state spending (what collectively are referred to as “Agency Budgets”), and compare only what those familiar with these things refer to as the FY 16 Adjusted Base (essentially the spending level for FY 2015 adjusted for “normal” year to year changes) against the proposed FY 2016 spending level before the House Continue reading

My thoughts on the final House Operating Budget …

APE-Government-Spending-610x406Wednesday the full House Finance Committee, and last night the full House passed CSHB 72(FIN), the Committee Substitute for the Operating Budget submitted earlier this session. As readers of these pages know, I have followed and commented extensively on state fiscal matters generally, and the progress of this year’s Operating Budget specifically.  My comments on this year’s Operating Budget have been reflected most recently here and here,  My thoughts on the votes taken this week — and even more importantly, where we go from here — are captured Continue reading

The coming week in House Finance …

APE-Government-Spending-610x406The House Finance Committee this week is scheduled to mark up and take action on a Committee Substitute for the proposed Operating Budget.

Given the state’s current fiscal situation, this is a critically important week in Alaska’s history.  As proposed by the Governor, the Operating Budget stands at $5.47 billion, 97 percent of proposed state spending this year and as a result, responsible for driving the budget not only well beyond sustainable levels, but even well beyond the first step the Governor previously has said must be taken in the near term to reduce spending to sustainable levels.

Through substantial efforts, collectively the House Finance Subcommittees early last week proposed substitutes which bring the total within sustainable levels.  But public testimony Wednesday and Thursday was filled with those affected by various of the proposed cuts, seeking reinstatement of “just their piece” of course, but in the aggregate proposing to drive spending back over sustainable levels. Continue reading

A note to the House Finance Subcommittee Chairs …

APE-Government-Spending-610x406After following and reviewing closely the collective work of the House Finance Subcommittees last week, as finalized and presented early this week to the full House Finance Committee, I sent the following note this morning to the Chairs of the Subcommittees.  The results of their efforts are available here; a  good summary is here. Continue reading