Alaska Dispatch News published responses to a questionnaire it circulated toward the end of the campaign to legislative candidates. The questionnaire asked the candidates for their positions on various issues.
Several of the questions on the list relate to state fiscal policy. The fourth question asks directly about sustainable budgets ("What amount of state spending do you believe is sustainable? If cuts need to be made, where should most of the money come from, the operations budget or the capital budget?").
Some of the responses to that question are surprising. With the fall in oil prices, the Department of Revenue currently estimates that state revenues this year might not cover even half of state spending, leaving a gaping hole of roughly $3 billion in the state's budget. Yet, when asked to identify where cuts can be made, State Senator Cathy Giessel responded: "We cannot cut our way out of this."
Other answers are more realistic. State Senator Anna Fairclough, for example, responds to the same question as follows: "Our current budget funding state government, public safety, transportation, and other much-needed programs is not sustainable at our current revenue projections. The state needs a fiscal plan to work through different scenarios in order to identify where cuts would be most effective and efficient."
It will be useful to delve into the responses further once the elections are behind and the more difficult task of governing and legislating -- in other words, facing up to the real world -- lies ahead. For now, however, if any are reading this column on election day and haven't voted yet the questionnaire and responses provide a useful resource worth reviewing before doing so. Again, the responses are here.