Monday, April 28, 2014

#AKbudget| Now I know how Joe Wilson felt ...

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Let me make very clear at the outset of this short piece, I don't condone what Rep. Joe Wilson did on that evening in September 2009. Wilson, as you will recall, is the South Carolina Republican who shouted "you lie" as President Obama talked about immigration reform before an assembled Joint Congress. It was disrespectful, inappropriate and ill-conceived.

But this morning I realized what must have come over Joe Wilson when he did what he did, and why there is a chance I might have done the same thing this morning if I had heard the following statement being uttered on the Alaska Senate floor while I was in the gallery.  This is from Senator Lesil McGuire's end-of-session newsletter circulated earlier today:
It is with great pleasure that I write to fill you in about all the accomplishments of the 28th Legislature. We set out with four major goals: improving education; making energy more affordable; getting a handle on our budget; and pushing back federal overreach. I am pleased to report that we crossed the finish line with big wins on every one by passing legislation providing comprehensive funding for Education, creating an Alaska LNG Pipeline, a comprehensive corrections reform bill, and a sustainable and responsible budget.
The urge would have been great -- and given how deeply I feel about this issue, probably uncontrollable -- to do a "Joe Wilson" and shout, "you lie."  At the very least, what would have emerged would have been a very audible whisper to the same effect, a head shake and then my face buried in my hands.

As I have explained in great -- some say excruciating -- detail elsewhere, this Governor and the 28th Legislature not only have failed in achieving a sustainable -- and responsible -- budget, in fact they have taken a huge, giant, unthinkably large leap backwards.

During their two year term, this Legislature has passed -- and the Governor signed last year and is likely to sign again this -- spending bills producing the two single largest budget deficits in Alaska's history. In doing so, this Governor and Legislature in one short, two-year term, will have wiped off the books fully 35% of the state's financial reserves that existed the day they came into office.

And cumulatively, they have so badly damaged the "nest egg" that the current generation of Alaskans holds in trust for future generations that the state's future sustainable spending levels now likely have fallen to somewhere in the $4 billion-ish per year range, rather than the mid-$5 billion range that existed when they came into office.

This Governor and Legislature came into office with high expectations and lofty rhetoric about exercising "fiscal responsibility".  They have failed miserably -- let me repeat and be clear, failed miserably -- at the task.

Joe Wilson's words came out of my mouth as I read Sen. McGuire's laughable summation of this Legislature's accomplishments.  I am just glad that I wasn't in the Senate gallery and she wasn't on the Senate floor when she said them.