At the time that the Senate voted to take the step, they already had been advised in a paper authored by three economists from the University of Alaska-Anchorage's Institute of Social and Economic Research -- the state's best economic think tank -- that doing so was the “most regressive” and would have the “largest adverse impact on the [overall Alaska] economy” of all the state’s fiscal options. Short-Run Economic Impacts of Alaska Fiscal Options, https://goo.gl/ZxR1Hw at A-12, A- 15 (March 2016).
But they did it nonetheless.
Their vote for the cut -- and as a result, to tax the overall Alaska economy -- has haunted the reelection campaigns of two of those who voted in favor -- Senators Cathy Giessel and John Coghill -- ever since. The question it has raised is, at the end of the day when push comes to shove, whether they ultimately side with the government economy against the overall Alaska economy. Some believe, as do we, that if they do then at least from a fiscal policy perspective there isn't a compelling reason to reelect them.
Subsequently, the House Finance Committee voted down the Senate's bill, killing it for the session. The Governor, however, used the bill as part of the justification for making a one-year cut in the PFD, by line-item vetoing this year's PFD down to the level it would have been had the Senate's bill passed.
Earlier this month Senator Mike Dunleavy, one of those who voted against the PFD cut in the first place, announced his intention to introduce a bill at the start of the upcoming session to reverse the Governor's action and restore the PFD to its full level for this year. https://goo.gl/9AEubz Some viewed the bill -- and support for it -- as a potential way for those running for reelection to demonstrate that they had rethought the issue and were prepared to reverse course.
Yesterday, Senator Giessel's campaign posted a video on her campaign Facebook page that seemed to take the bait by announcing her support for Senator Dunleavy's effort. https://goo.gl/TC2oPM It quickly was picked up and reposted by several supporting her campaign.
Because the video did not expressly address SB 128 we questioned on one of those reposts the meaning of the late-coming support. Our concern was that by only supporting Senator Dunleavy's one-year fix and not expressly addressing SB 128, Senator Giessel left open the door later to continue her support for the longer-term cut embodied in SB 128.
Our question quickly was slapped down by the poster with the response that "it's ok to make a mistake and work at fixing it," leaving the impression that the support for Senator Dunleavy's effort was a recognition that the earlier vote had been a "mistake."
We were prepared to let it go at that when all of the sudden Alaska Republican Party Chair Tuckerman Babcock popped up in the exchange, not only muddying the water but in our mind also reversing whatever positive effect the video had created. Here is the exchange that followed:
So, we are back to the starting point: what is Senator Giessel's, Senator Coghill's and the Republican Party's position on the PFD cut? From this exchange it now appears to be simply to reverse the one year effect of the Governor's veto (because it was "imposed by fiat"), then go back to supporting SB 128 (rule by "legislating").
If that's the case we go back to our original position on the issue. If the ARP, Senator Giessel and Senator Coghill believe permanently cutting the PFD is good policy, then at least from a fiscal policy perspective we don't believe there is a compelling reason to reelect them.