Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What is your plan ...

A recent piece by Amanda Coyne reports on the Anchorage fundraiser last week for Byron Mallott and her follow-up interview with him.  One thing from the interview stands out to me:
"... when asked directly if he [Mallott] would personally vote to repeal SB 21, the controversial oil tax bill passed last legislative session, he said he would."
While I appreciate that these are early days in his campaign -- and the campaign in general -- the answer nevertheless is disappointing and not a good sign of things to come.

My disappointment isn't necessarily in Mallott's position -- although I personally believe SB 21 is a step in the right direction, I understand how others can think differently about that. Instead, what is disappointing is that he didn't, at the same time, articulate at least the outline of a plan for how he would handle things differently.

Virtually everyone agreed in the last legislative session that ACES is failing, to one degree or another.  Production and revenues are down, and headed lower quickly.  As the University of Alaska-Anchorage's Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER) put it earlier this year, using revenue forecasts based on ACES:
"Right now, the state is on a path it can’t sustain. Growing spending and falling revenues are creating a widening fiscal gap. In its 10-year fiscal plan, the state Office of Management and Budget (OMB) projects that spending the cash reserves might fill this gap until 2023, as the adjacent figure shows. But what happens after 2023? 
Reasonable assumptions about potential new revenue sources suggest we do not have enough cash in reserves to avoid a severe fiscal crunch soon after 2023, and with that fiscal crisis will come an economic crash."
Unless Mallott disagrees with that assessment, which I doubt and would require its own explanation in any event, I believe he has an obligation to outline -- sooner than later -- how he intends to address the issue.

To me -- and I believe as they come to understand it, to a large segment of Alaskans -- this is the most important issue facing the state in the years ahead and as a consequence, the most important in this campaign.  Merely being against one approach for addressing it is not good enough.  The candidates this election cycle need to offer hard, concrete solutions so that voters are able to judge which is better able to prepare Alaska for the coming challenge.

To be sure, the same obligation falls on Sean Parnell, and as I have commented often on these pages and elsewhere, he hasn't stepped up to the plate yet, either.  SB 21 is a step toward a solution, but even the Administration's own numbers demonstrate that SB 21 doesn't come close to producing the long-term revenue levels necessary to support to the Governor's proposed spending plans.

But because Parnell has not yet stepped up to the plate doesn't excuse the other candidates.  Mallott has said he will be a new kind of candidate, and Governor.  If true, he needs to start by telling Alaskans what solutions a Mallott Administration will pursue.

The fundamental question is "you don't like SB 21.  Fine, then what is your plan?"  Hopefully, he will address that soon.