Republicans need to back up talk and cut spending

commentJune 2, 2012 

So, while fretting the other day about the Alaska GOP and its painful, inexorable slide down the rabbit hole, a question occurred to me: When are Republicans going to start walking the talk when it comes to spending?

Alaska, after all, is teetering on the brink of a fiscal flambe. The facts should be clear, even to the loony Left. This state runs on oil. North Slope oil production and investment are down -- and dropping -- largely because of myopic, idiotic tax policies.

Now, battered by European nuttiness -- and our economic wobblies and record petroleum inventories -- oil prices everywhere are slipping. Thanks to our legislative big spenders, Alaska must have $100-a-barrel North Slope oil just to keep from doing a full gainer into a tub of red ink. A few days ago, North Slope crude was trading at $107, down from about $120, and circling the drain. Oil prices elsewhere were dipping too.

All of that keeps me wondering whether Alaska is on the right track. Then, voila, a news story that makes it quite clear we are not.

The story says The Dome in Anchorage is slated for a $1.5 million capital budget assist for a parking lot, thanks to Republican Sen. Lesil McGuire and bipartisan legislative munificence.

The Dome is privately operated. It is a humongous, inflated indoor track with playing fields next to ChangePoint ministry, a nondenominational megachurch attended by none other than Gov. Sean Parnell. While the church helped develop and finance the facility, it does not own the structure or the land slated for paving, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Unarguably the Dome is good for Anchorage -- and needs parking -- but that begs the obvious: Why are Alaskans paying for the bulk of this $2 million project?

The Legislature's largesse, mind you, does not begin or end with The Dome. It's small potatoes in Alaska's bloated $3 billion capital budget. Lawmakers defend such one-time spending as important economic stimulus. The argument would be more salable if there were a system to evaluate and rank the expenditures based on benefits to the state. Now? It is politics, and the big hogs are first to the trough. The governor? He's unable to rein them in.

The total budget is about $12 billion -- in a state that boasts 722,000 souls. A quick perusal of the capital spending portion leaves your head spinning. There is something for just about everybody -- except discipline.

The capital budget is fat with cash for ball fields, camps, foundations, ministries, a ski club, disabled veterans, widows, Girl Scouts, American Legion and Native associations. There is even another parking lot paving project -- at $100,000 -- for Wellspring Revival Ministries. Seriously? The list seemingly is endless. Apparently, lawmakerspeak lacks a word for "no."

All this from a Legislature mostly controlled by those ol' budget cutters, the Republicans. (It is not just an Alaska problem. Remember the Republican Congress and George W. Bush? They never saw a budget they did not want to bust.)

You can bet your hat that when the election rolls around this fall, there will not be a single Republican asking for your vote -- not one -- by promising to spend more, to expand the role, size and intrusiveness of government, to hand out checks to every Tom, Dick and Harry. Not one will swear to stick it to the oil industry or vote for confiscatory taxes. Not one will tell you that because of the GOP's reluctance to tell Democrats thanks, but no thanks, someday soon there will be an income tax.

Nope. They will promise -- again -- that, no matter what, they will choke off spending and slash state government, so help them God. If history is any teacher, they will be fibbing. Again.

When will they change their ways? Time is growing short. Alaska has $15 billion or so in its savings accounts, much of it ill-gotten gains from its predatory and rapacious oil tax -- a levy some of them helped implement. When the North Slope oil price slips below $100 a barrel, we have five years -- give or take -- before our savings evaporate. When things get tough, the first place lawmakers will look is in our wallets. We all have a lot to lose if things remain the same and spending continues as usual. It is time for Republicans to walk the talk.

Or practice their full gainers.


Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com.

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