Community Perspective

How should Alaska solve its problem? Math

Many Alaska state residents are calling our fiscal situation a crisis. Is it? It seems to me that it would be simple to solve this issue. It’s called math. No emotions.

State employees are one of the biggest sources of expenses. Do as Lee lacocca did to save Chrysler. Start at the top and cut their salaries the most; as one goes down the compensation list, cut less until those just making it are not cut at all. No one is laid off.

Then look at state retirees. Alaska gave away the farm during the pipeline to get people to work for the state. So cut retirees in the same way. More at the top, none at the bottom.

Have them pay more for health benefits.

I worked 25 years for an Alaska nonprofit providing services to mentally ill children. We were required to provide outcome-based services to collect revenues. All state programs should be outcome-based. Duplication, waste, inefficiency and poor outcome should be investigated. Poorly performing services should be modified or eliminated. Leadership demands the highest level of compensation because of their responsibilities and abilities. Poor leadership should be eliminated at all levels.

Revenues should more than equal expenses. This is how you get ahead.

All workers in Alaska should pay an income tax. It could be a small percentage of wages, but there should be no exceptions, no special interests. There should be a small state sales tax.

Again, no exceptions, no special interests. These taxes would bring in revenue from out-of-state workers not only in the oil business but also workers in the fishing industry, mining, tourism and more. These people use state services, so they should share the burden of the cost of those services and of the opportunity to work in Alaska.

There should be an increase in fuel taxes. Not just for road vehicles but for boats, planes and heating. Go ahead and build a 4,000-plus square foot house, you can pay a little for the luxury of heating it. Fuel revenues should go toward services provided in specific areas. Fuel for cars, truck and buses would pay for roads and bridges. Fuel for boats and ships toward port services. Fuel for aircraft toward airports.

The University of Alaska is a land and sea grant institution. Sell the assets and put the funds in the stock market to use for the future. Sue the federal government for not turning over land to UA in a timely manner, thus losing potential revenues.

We hear a lot about children and the future, so reinstate the school head tax. This really does not need to be explained, but being 70 years old, I would prefer to be taken care of in my old age by people who can read, write and do basic math.

Now how to deal with the famous permanent fund. Personally, I was amused to read that the resources of Alaska belonged to all the residents. I certainly could not have gotten that oil out of the ground all by myself. Using this argument, however, should apply to all Alaska resources, not just oil. Let’s have a permanent fund contributed to by the oil companies, mining companies, commercial fishing, timber industry, tourism companies, professional hunting and fishing people, and anyone making a living off Alaska’s resources, even the Alaska Native corporations.

The revenue from the fund could provide a basic income for all Alaska residents. I would prefer “basic income” to “permanent fund” because that is what it has become. Having worked with special-needs youth, I will warn you that giveaways leads to immature, dependent people. It is fascinating to me how much the current leadership, not only in Alaska, but in the rest of the United States and world, reminds me of the children I worked with in mental health. The children knew the rules and expected you to follow them. They didn’t follow the rules, but they were special so needed extra attention. In all those years, I found that work was the best therapy.

Making your own money, paying your own way and sometimes picking up the tab works wonders for people’s mental health.

Finally, we need to ask how we arrived at our current situation. I suggest we have term limits for all branches of government, including the judiciary. The amount of time a lobbyist can spend with any government worker should be limited. Legislators should spend private time contemplating issues in the cold light of reality instead of being center stage in the media.

Good luck.

Bruce Carr lives in Fairbanks.


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