For the most part, rural Alaska could find itself on the outside looking in when it comes to important issues in front of the Alaska State Senate. The reason? The coalition was formed by an all Republican coalition.
I don't know that it is time to cry foul ... yet. I believe in the electoral process, and the voters put the people in place that they felt would represent them, and the state as a whole.
There is reason for concern, especially for those of us who have close ties, families and interests in rural Alaska. The concern is the Senate's new alignment favors the road system. Each of the top five spots in the new leadership group is from the road system, and each lawmaker, based on their past actions, could have favorable opinions on tax cuts for oil.
Personally, I hope this isn't the case. I hope the five people named to Senate leadership positions won't favor the Anchorage-Mat-Su-Fairbanks area over any other segment of the state. And, hopefully, they won't be too quick to grant tax cuts that help fund projects in rural Alaska, but rather tie tax cuts to increased oil production.
Hopefully, the Senate leaders will do what is right for the entire state.
Personally, I liked the old Senate bipartisan coalition that was made up of leaders in both the Democratic and Republican parties. It, I believe, offered a natural system of checks and balances. Although I'm not crazy enough to believe getting politicians to agree on anything unanimously is easy, I think the state is better served when there are differing voices heard and all points are considered.
When it comes to giving tax cuts on oil, our elected leaders need to be very careful. It is a decision that could affect our state and people seriously for many years. The one thing we don't need to do is put our state in any danger in these unsettling economic times.
I would hope that any tax cuts on oil revenue would be tied, in some fashion, to production or jobs or both. In this way, the state and oil companies would share in the revenue created by increased production.
It may be too early to worry about our Senate leadership. And I don't believe the sky is falling. Actually, I am cautiously optimistic that they will do what is best for all of Alaska and we need to keep our voices as we hope they use theirs.
Jason Evans is the publisher of The Arctic Sounder and The Bristol Bay Times/The Dutch Harbor Fisherman. His opinions are her own.
This commentary was first published by The Bristol Bay Times and is republished here with permission. The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch. Alaska Dispatch welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.