Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The first round ...

The first round of the Alaska elections produced gains in bringing an increased focus to state budget issues.  As I have written elsewhere on these pages, resolving state budget issues has become critically important also to resolving state oil issues.

Candidates stressing fiscal issues already well known in their communities and relatively well funded won Senate races in the Valley (Mike Dunleavy) and Kenai (Peter Micciche). Stressing only fiscal issues, a  previous unknown (Jeff Landfield) also produced significant results (44%) in a deeply underfunded effort against an entrenched incumbent in Anchorage, signaling dissatisfaction on the issue there as well.  Anchorage tax cap author Don Smith won his nomination also.

On the other hand, social, but not necessarily fiscal, conservatives won Senate nominations over candidates stressing fiscal issues in contested races in Fairbanks and the West Anchorage Senate district.   House results were somewhat mixed as well.   Nevertheless, the discussion on fiscal issues is strengthened and will continue into the fall.

Perhaps the most interesting event of the day from a fiscal policy perspective, however, was reading Representative Pete Petersen's (a liberal D) door hanger.   The first issue on the front page of the hanger was this:
"Fighting Wasteful Spending. Pete was one of only two legislators who had the courage to vote against the $3 billion capital budget. Pete gets it!"
 Then among the "Petersen Plan for Alaska" on the back, this:
"Reform the state budget process to eliminate government waste and pork barrel spending."
Interestingly, Petersen's Republican opponent recently signed on to the report from the House Special Committee on Fiscal Policy which, as has been discussed previously on these pages, raises concerns about the commitment, at least of the members of the Committee, to fiscal reform.
The Petersen flier appears to be an effort to take advantage of the fact that, over the last two years, House R's have approved the two largest budgets in Alaska's history, and that at least some do not appear to be concerned about the consequences, either to oil policy or future Alaskans. 
The flier suggests that at least some Democrats believe Republicans are vulnerable on the issue.  Personally, I believe that the assessment is correct.