On Sept. 10 and 11, I will hold meetings in Homer and Ninilchik to gather constituent input on the state budget. The budget has been discussed a lot this year with the state having a $3 billion deficit and only three years of reserves.
Policy decisions need to be made this year so they can be implemented in time to generate revenue before the reserves run out. We cannot afford to wait for the price of oil to save us; it is too low to pull us out of deficit and is predicted to stay low for several years. It would take a price of $110 per barrel just to break even on the 2016 budget.
Of course cuts will continue to be a part of how we deal with this budget situation, but through my participation in both the governor’s Sustainable Futures conference and the city of Homer’s Closing the Gap meeting it is clear that people have reached a general consensus that we must maintain our priorities.
In these upcoming local meetings we will not rehash these priorities, but instead will focus on how we can generate the necessary revenue to continue to provide priority services like public safety and education. Some of the revenue options proposed include a state sales tax, state income tax, changes to oil and gas credits, gaming and tapping the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve. Many of these Permanent Fund proposals still maintain a PFD for residents while using a small portion annually for the state budget.
No one revenue stream can close the budget gap in a sustainable manner; it is going to take a combined effort. I would like your input. What kind of revenue sources would you like the state to explore? What are your questions or concerns about the proposed options? What choice do you feel would have the smallest impact on individual Alaskans like you?
We are pleased that Commissioner of Revenue Randall Hoffbeck will be attending both meetings to answer questions and listen to your comments.
Although the focus of our meetings will be revenue options, cuts to the budget will continue. During the upcoming 2016 legislative session each department will be reviewed in great detail by the finance budget subcommittees. These subcommittees and their chairs are very familiar with the budget for their particular department and will be looking closely for efficiencies and places to cut spending. If you have detailed questions or suggestions about the budget for a particular department please contact my staff, Jenny Martin or Taneeka Hansen, at 235-2921. They will help connect you to the chair of the proper budget subcommittee.
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to visit gov.alaska.gov/sustainablefuture and try out the revenue and expenditure model. The model includes descriptions of various revenue and spending options and allows you to add or subtract options to balance the budget. Please also take a moment to fill out the revenue options survey created by my office. Both links are also available on my website HouseMajority.org/Seaton. If you cannot attend one of the meetings, this survey will let you share your thoughts with us. If you plan on attending, the survey will serve as a primer for the conversation and give us the opportunity to investigate questions before the meeting begins.
Thank you for helping us work towards a sustainable future. This is not an easy conversation but it is a necessary one. I hope you will stay involved as the process moves forward. It will take a lot of cooperation to find the solution that best fits Alaska.
Sept. 10: 6-8 p.m. Ninilchik Senior Center
Sept. 11, 7-9 p.m.
Homer, Islands and Ocean Visitor Center
Purpose: How can Alaska generate necessary revenue to provide priority services?