Community Perspective

Stop the cuts, vetoes that put Alaska in Dark Ages

Since the first oil flowed from the North Slope, a modern Alaska has been built, operated, and maintained because Alaskans have been able to get a fair share of production revenue from the sale of our oil. Since Senate Bill 21 slashed our share of production revenue five years ago, the Legislature and administration have been cutting and vetoing Alaska’s budgets and permanent fund dividends into their flesh, bones and vital organs, pushing Alaska toward the Dark Ages.

Notwithstanding a two-year period of lower oil prices, these hardships could have been avoided if Alaskans were still recovering a fair share of production revenues. Unfortunately, starting in 2014, SB21 slashed our share of production revenue by $1.5 billion to $2 billion per year. For the past five years under SB21, Alaskans have actually paid and owe the producers more in production credits than the producers have paid us in production revenues. In fact, the state is currently trying to borrow $1 billion to pay producers for the production credits we still owe them.

SB21 has directly undercut Alaska’s economy. Since SB21, Alaska has cut and vetoed its operating budgets (cutting essential services and jobs), capital budgets (cutting needed infrastructure and jobs), and PFDs (harming our families, economy, and jobs).

SB21 has also indirectly undercut Alaska’s economy. Since SB21, the state buildings, facilities and structures across Alaska have incurred $2 billion in deferred maintenance that has not been funded by way of capital budgets. My best guess is that if all currently deferred maintenance needs for the university system, the ferry system, public schools, roads and highways, airports, prisons, court systems, trooper facilities, all administrative buildings, and all other public buildings and facilities and structures were added together, the total deferred maintenance would be much more than $2 billion.

SB21 has undercut our economic future. Even the things that businesses look to when thinking of opening a business in Alaska are now being hurt by SB21. New businesses that might employ Alaskans will look at Alaska’s infrastructure. They would find Alaska is 46 of 50 among the states, with 9.7% of its bridges in poor condition and 29% of its roads in unacceptable condition, and the ferry system cut by 50%.

Businesses will look to public education to see if the state workforce is currently being trained and will find Alaska is 49 out of the 50 states, with the university system in the midst of a 41% veto of its funding. We know Alaska has a high cost of living, at 44 of 50. If you cut or veto programs and sports from public schools and cut or veto libraries from communities and cut or veto music and art programs and cut or veto the multitude of elective programs, business owners will question why their families or their employees’ families would want to live here. In other words, the cuts and vetoes are destroying the quality of life in Alaska and with it our economic future.

Now is not the time to continue giving massive and unnecessary public subsidies to a few multinational corporations to produce our oil from the largest and most profitable conventional oil fields in North America. Now is not the time for more devastating consequences from cuts and vetoes due to SB21.

Now is the time to stop the cuts and vetoes that push Alaska toward the Dark Ages. Now is the time to change SB21 so Alaskans will again receive their fair share of the oil wealth our oil creates. Now is the time to fund essential services to send the message to new business owners that functioning infrastructure will exist, that K-12 and the university will be funded, that sports, music, art and libraries will be funded. Now is the time to fund PFDs to help our economy and provide jobs. Now is the time to fund a meaningful capital budget to build needed infrastructure and provide jobs. Now is the time to heal the cuts and vetoes to the flesh, bones and vital organs of Alaska’s body.

Please consider supporting Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share. Our future depends upon it. For more information on the Fair Share Act, go to voteyesforalaskasfairshare.com.

Joe Paskvan is retired after almost 40 years as an attorney in private practice. He is a former state senator who served as chairman of the Senate Resources Committee. He lives in Fairbanks.

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