Sunday, October 30, 2016

So, after all that, what is the R position on cutting the PFD???

Earlier this year, the Senate voted 14-6 to permanently cut (or to use the euphemism favored by those voting in favor, "restructure") the PFD, and transfer the difference from the private sector of the Alaska economy to the government sector.  The votes on SB 128, the bill which incorporated the cut, are recorded at

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, 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.  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.  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:

Tuckerman Babcock You generally make better far better arguments than that Brad Keithley. There is a substantive and significant difference between debating and legislating (Giessel) and unilateral confiscatory action (Governor Walker)..
LikeReply22 hrs
Brad Keithley Hahahahaha ... and you generally offer far better defenses than that, Tuckerman. If I am reading your post correctly, you now appear to be suggesting that Sen. Giessel continues to stand by her vote for SB 128 (because it was done by "legislating"), and is supporting Senator Mike Dunleavy's bill only because the Governor implemented the same cut (she voted to make permanent) by veto.

To me, trying to make a nuanced procedural argument like that is too cute by half. Whether done by "legislating" or veto doesn't matter to the overall Alaska economy. Cutting the PFD is the “most regressive” and has the “largest adverse impact on the [overall Alaska] economy” of all the state’s fiscal options. Short-Run Economic Impacts of Alaska Fiscal Options, at A-12, A- 15 (March 2016). As Lynn suggested in her response its a mistake either way.

In my view you are trying to paint way too fine a line. Just when I was beginning to climb out of my indifference to how that race turns out, I think you just convinced me to go back in.
LikeReply21 hrsEdited
Tuckerman Babcock That is rather prickly of you! I doubt I have that much sway with you. I do not speak for Senator Giessel, I was merely making my own observations. Apparently you do not care much whether public policy is legislated or imposed by fiat. That is a "nuance" that is rather important to my philosophy.
LikeReply21 hrs
Brad Keithley Tuckerman ... Well, except when Sean did it. There is a time and place for vetos; that is why the Alaska Constitution provides the authority. I certainly wouldn't write them out of the Constitution wholesale on the grounds that they somehow constitute "fiat." And if you (or Sen. Giessel) were really concerned about that issue, I would have thought there would have been a much greater effort put behind the Constitutionally-provided remedy, the veto override.

But more to the point, I generally don't really care much about whether policy is implemented procedurally by legislation or the exercise of Constitutionally-provided executive power. I care much more about what the policy actually does, however implemented. In this case the outcome of cutting the PFD is clear, it hurts the overall Alaska economy. I agree with -- and support -- those who consistently have stood against it in whatever form. Someone who was for it (SB 128) before they were against it (veto) ... well, I have no idea where they stand now on the policy issue.
LikeReply21 hrsEdited

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.