The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

 
 

By LEE REVIS
Editor, Valdez Star 

Gov. Walker sends staffers out to tout state budget fixes

Town meeting on "State of the State" explained plan to address the crisis

 

Valdez Star photo

John Hozey, who is the deputy chief of staff in Gov. Bill Walker's administration, hosted a town meeting to explain the governor's budget fix.

Alaskans will need to make sacrifices to address the state's fiscal crisis - and Gov. Walker has spelled out how he sees that happening. In hopes of gaining voter support for his plans - which include restructuring dividend payments to Alaskans, an income tax and an overhaul of oil taxes - he is sending key staff members back to their hometowns to explain his budget fixes.

Last Thursday the governor's deputy chief of staff, John Hozey, who is a former city manager in Valdez, held a town hall meeting in hopes of helping Valdez understand the crisis and gain support of the governor's proposals, many of which have seen little movement in the final days of the regular legislative session.

"We don't have a wealth problem, we have a cash flow problem," Hozey told attendees, quoting Walker himself.

Hozey asked attendees to put pressure on lawmakers to address the state's fiscal crisis.

The regular legislative session ends Sunday. Walker vowed to call a special session if the legislature fails to pass a balanced budget that does not close the fiscal gap - nearly $4 billion - with new revenue sources.

The legislature has relied on savings to balance the state's last budget, which is not sustainable.

Hozey said that Walker is not insisting that his proposals be used to balance a sustainable budget, but said that a balanced budget must be passed this year.

Monday night, Rep. Les Gara's newsletter summed up a number of the problems aggravating the deficit.

"Today we expected to debate a bill by the Governor to fix some of the major flaws in an oil tax system that pays oil companies roughly $1 billion more in tax credits and deductions than we get back in Oil Production Taxes," Gara said. "Here's a gem that should make you scratch your head. This isn't an exaggeration. Under current law Alaska will receive more revenue in three of the next four years from fishing and hunting licenses than from our current Oil Production Tax law. That's because of a bad mix of gold-plated, overly generous tax breaks, deductions, oil company cash payments, and an Oil Production Tax that is so low it could guarantee austerity for a decade."

Source: State of Alaska

This graphic showing Alaska's budget as running on empty is one of many graphics, videos and charts on Gov. Bill Walker's state website that talks about his budget plan.

Walker's budget bills saw some movement Tuesday, but a number of provisions were changed or eliminated after passing through various committees.

"It's pretty crazy," Hozey said Thursday when he briefly talked about reforming the state's oil tax credits.

Proposals for a state income tax and restructuring Permanent Fund dividends are still pending.

Hozey said the dividend restructuring - which he said is regressive - was likely to harm low income and rural Alaskans more than the proposed income tax, which he said is progressive.

Walker had been slated to visit Valdez Saturday but his visit was canceled due to weather.

 

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