Thursday, June 26, 2014

My first legislative contribution of this election year ...

While I anticipate I will make others as the various candidates start to better define their positions, yesterday I made my first, issue based legislative candidate contribution of the current election year.  

The candidate is District 19 (Mountain View/Airport Heights) Libertarian candidate Cean Stevens.  The reason I have added my support is because of her stand on fiscal issues.  Her platform on that issue is clear and concise:

STOP Runaway Spending: 
In the past two years the state legislature has engaged in severe deficit spending, in the process draining $6 billion of the $17 billion in state savings that existed in 2012.  The University of Alaska-Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research (ISER), the state’s think tank, has predicted at the current rate of state spending Alaska “does 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.”  What can we expect when the state reaches that point?  Again to quote ISER, the “institution of a broad based [sales or income] tax and use of a portion of the earnings of the Permanent Fund,” in other words, taxes and a reduction in your PFD. 
My opponent in this district voted for each of those budgets and, in fact, for amendments that would have increased spending even beyond those levels and thus, for an even a deeper raid on your future PFD. 
I commit to working to change the downward spiral the state is on while there is still time, by voting against any future spending in excess of sustainable levels and for the immediate transfer of the remaining $11 billion in the state’s savings accounts into the Permanent Fund where it will be protected by the state constitution from further government raid.  And, I will not join any legislative caucus which limits my ability to make those crucial votes.  Just as we do as families, Alaska needs to learn to live within its means and stop the raid on our economic future, including on our future PFD’s.  Any other approach heads us toward an economic train wreck.”
While others in past and in the current election cycle have claimed to be "fiscal conservatives," Stevens' commitment is different in two critical respects.

First, she has committed to voting against any future spending in excess of sustainable spending levels. Second, she has committed not to join any legislative caucus which would limit her ability to fulfill the first pledge.

In the past some candidates have sort of made the first commitment, but it has turned out to be meaningless without the second.  Why?  Because under the rules of the legislative caucus they have joined, they have committed from the outset to vote on the floor for whatever final budget emerges from the Finance Committee.

The result is that while they have talked a good game during the campaign about how they would cast their vote on fiscal issues, by joining the caucus they essentially gave their vote to legislative leadership when it came down to crunch time.  And how did legislative leadership perform at crunch time?  Here is the take on it from the Alaska Business Report Card, prepared jointly by the Alliance, RDC, Alaska Chamber and Prosperity Alaska:
... as with the House Majority and the Governor, the Senate Majority allowed unsustainable unrestricted general fund spending. ... the State’s fiscal cliff looms large. As a result, the grades of the members of the Senate leadership team (President, Majority Leader, and the co-chairs of Finance and Rules chair) [and House leadership team, Speaker, Majority Leader, co-chairs of Finance and Rules chair] were downgraded.
The net result is that while the candidates have talked a good game up front, they have failed to match their words to actions when the rubber met the road.  By delegating the vote their constituents entrusted to them to others, their vote has ended up being directed in other ways than what they told their constituents.

Stevens is different because she has committed up front not to join a caucus, if doing so puts her in a position where her vote may be used to support other than a sustainable budget.

Making that commitment takes courage.  She may get less help during her campaign from those who benefit from the current caucus system than if she indicated she was willing to join a caucus.  And it may be, if elected, she will have fewer privileges than other members who join a caucus -- at least until more join the same cause.

But unlike others, she will be positioned to meet the commitments she makes to her constituents during the campaign.

Frankly, as long as the current system operates to produce unsustainable budgets eating away at the fiscal position this generation is handing down to the next I think Stevens' approach may be the wave of the future, not an isolated event.  As constituents realize more and more that the legislators they elect based on the statements they make are in fact delegating their vote to others once they reach Juneau, I believe voters will reward candidates like Stevens who are willing to do what it takes to fulfill their pledges rather than "go along to get along."  As other candidates realize that is the will of the electorate, they will act like Stevens and adopt similar commitments to put their constituents first.

Cean Stevens is the first to step out on this issue.  It takes courage and it takes a commitment to putting her constituents first.  She is doing both and as she puts it, "standing up for what's right."

I am proud to support her in that effort, urge others to do the same to reward that level of commitment, and frankly urge other candidates to consider doing the same in their campaigns.