Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Short Takes| Hmmmmm ...

I just finished listening to the second hour of Monday's Casey Reynolds Radio Show.  I was out of town Monday, but I understood from a friend that Casey talked about the current situation at UAA, which I had written about that morning (and am again this morning).  As it turns out he had read the post and was talking about it on air.

The podcast of the second hour is here; the discussion of the post runs from roughly 18:15 to 30:30 of the segment.  Casey makes an interesting -- and unexpected -- comment at the end of the segment, at roughly the 30 minute mark.  I am honored by the comment and the company. 

Frankly, as I have said elsewhere, I do think there is scope for an Independent candidate for Governor in 2014.  At least from a fiscal policy perspective, which drives a number of others, Juneau is seriously broken.  

This year the Governor proposed and the Legislature passed the second largest combined capital and operating spending package in Alaska's history, oddly claiming in the process to be "fiscal conservatives."  They aren't.  

As the University of Alaska-Anchorage's Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) made clear before the session started, "In fiscal year 2014, Alaska’s state government can afford to spend about $5.5 billion."  Spending above that level, ISER warned, would continue "the state ... on a path it can’t sustain," leading ultimately to "a severe fiscal crunch soon after 2023, and with that fiscal crisis will come an economic crash."

The Governor and Legislature's combined response?  A final spending package of $6.8 billion, fully $1.3 billion (or nearly 25%) above sustainable levels, and as I mentioned above, the second highest in Alaska's history.

Adding injury to injury, toward the end of the session the Governor announced that he intends to double down on this reckless policy, proposing a "fiscal plan" that maintains spending at the same level -- $6.8 billion -- for the next five years.  The plan affirmatively contemplates deficit spending in the range of $700 million per year.  The difference between that and the sustainable spending level will be significantly more.

As I have explained elsewhere on these pages, at the end of that road lies disaster. "[E]ven with oil tax reform and a production response that results in 0% decline, the state simply emerges at the end of the five year period at the edge of the fiscal cliff ISER describes in its study, perhaps even earlier than 2023."

Twenty years ago in the midst of a similar failure of fiscal policy by both parties, Maine voters rebelled and elected an Independent as Governor.  The experiment was a success.  Reelected with 59% of the vote after his first term, Governor King ultimately left office with Maine's fiscal house back in order.  This past year, running with the support of federal fiscal hawks former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson (R) and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles (D), King was elected to the U.S. Senate, again as an Independent.

There is a lesson in that for both Alaska parties.

King, by the way, is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law.  So am I.