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

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Revenue is the likely focus of special session plans for October

Gov. Walker said in Valdez last month that legislature has not fixed problems

 

September 6, 2017

Gov. Bill Walker

Lack of cash in the state's coffers are going to be the focus of a special session called by Gov. Bill Walker.

Walker said in a statement last week that he plans to convene the session Oct. 23 in Juneau.

Until then, he says he and his administration will work with legislators to narrow the focus on revenue options "to ensure a productive session."

An official agenda will be issued on or before Sept. 22 according to Walker's office.

This will be special session number four this year.

The previous special sessions were focused on passing a budget and addressing oil and gas tax credits that political leaders said the state could no longer afford to pay.

The state's fiscal woes are well-known and the budget has been mired in deficit amid continued low oil prices.

Walker discussed the deficit and revenue - or lack thereof - when in Valdez in early August.

He talked about crafting a possible tax bill he may present in the future to help the state pay for services it provides. At the time, he would not say whether or not he intended to include an income tax in that equation, but did say the money has to come from somewhere.

"So far, we've been paying for them out of savings," Walker said. "We've gone through $14 billion worth of savings trying to figure that out."

He said there is precious little left to cut from the budget after three years of deficit spending.

"The budget's been reduced by $1.7 billion on the operating side," he said. "We made massive reductions across the state. I hear about it daily from people who are receiving less services."

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott

Cuts to the Permanent Fund Dividend - viewed by some as political suicide - have made only a small dent in the state's fiscal gap.

"We have to live within out means," the governor said. "and so the next piece, we need to figure out what new revenues we are going to have and where they're going to come from."

The state's budget reserve is gone, the constitutional reserve is under $2 billion.

"We've virtually gone through our savings at this point," he said.

Walker said spending the state's reserves was a poor excuse to give political comfort and has been harmful to the state.

 

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