Opinions

Shannyn Moore: Walker's budget reflects right's devotion to the rich at Alaska's expense

There's an old saying in life and politics: "You dance with the one who brought you." The more I look at Gov. Bill Walker's state budget plans, the more I think he's trying to ditch his dance partners.

Walker, you may recall, was elected by a core of Democratic, Native and working-class voters. He did so over the strenuous efforts of the professional Republicans and corporate genuflectors at the Chamber of Commerce and their followers. For reasons I can't fathom, the governor seems to have decided now is the time to kowtow to the rich and powerful at the expense of the people who elected him.

I know most of us are too busy checking our lists -- and checking them twice -- to spend much time studying state finances, but let's consider Walker's budget for just a minute. He's proposing to balance the budget by picking the pockets of working Alaskans while leaving corporations, and especially the Big Three oil companies, largely unmolested.

His budget is tailored for the wealthiest Alaskans, big corporations and the giant oil companies -- exactly the people and businesses who worked hardest to elect Sean Parnell and defeat Walker. And the irony is that I'm not sure even Parnell -- a sock puppet for the oil industry if ever there was one -- would have the nerve to propose this budget.

No wonder the CEO of GCI, Ron Duncan, who makes $3.2 million a year, is spending most of his time pushing this plan and organizing a Super PAC of his rich buddies to threaten legislators who aren't falling in line. I realize many of our legislators are already bought and paid for, but I hope we still have a few who remember they are there to serve people, not corporations.

I also wonder how GCI's cellphone and cable customers -- at least the ones paying attention -- feel about paying for GCI's efforts to elect legislators committed to cutting in half the Permanent Fund dividends of those same customers?

Three-quarters of the money in Walker's proposed budget comes from individual Alaskans by way of the Permanent Fund. His proposal takes $3.2 billion from the Permanent Fund every year, in part by halving our dividends. Pile on top of that increases in the gasoline tax, cigarette tax, alcohol tax and a new income tax, and an average family of four will see its income fall about $4,300, nearly 9 percent of average annual income.

Compare that to a family of four making, say, $3.2 million a year. That family loses less than 2 percent of its income. Ask yourself: Why should a secretary help solve the state's fiscal gap at a rate four times higher than that of the CEO she works for? In what perverse universe is that fair, governor?

Now let's look at the oil industry. Yes, some tax credits are cut -- but those cuts mainly affect the smaller, independent producers. Under Walker's plan, BP, ConocoPhillips and Exxon will suffer a measly 1 percent tax hike.

The industry spent tens of millions telling us that cutting oil taxes would lead to higher production. What actually happened? Oil production is expected to drop to about 300,000 barrels a day in the next 10 years. That's about half the production we had when the oil companies and their wholly owned subsidiary, the Republican Party of Alaska, passed SB 21, the oil tax giveaway bill.

So much for "We stopped the drop," and visions of 1 million barrels through the pipeline in 10 years after tax reform.

Remember how they advised us to be less like Alaska and more like North Dakota? Well, if we actually were more like North Dakota, we'd increase our taxes and royalties by about $2 billion a year, which would go a long way toward closing our budget deficit.

Gov. Walker, the rich and powerful didn't elect you. I know it's nice to go to their dress-up balls and eat fancy dinners. I get it; it's fun to hang out with the "cool kids." But they didn't trust you, don't trust you, won't support you and won't vote for you. You're not naive, so please don't govern like you just fell off the turnip truck.

You won your office because of Alaska Natives who live subsistence lifestyles and rely on the PFD to pay for food and fuel. You won because of middle-class and working-poor families who struggle and depend on their PFDs to make ends meet. You won with the support of progressive Alaskans who believed you would stand up for equal treatment before the law. You won because of people who embraced the idea of "Alaska First," assuming that meant you wouldn't sacrifice them on the altar of multinational corporations.

Dance with the people who brought you, governor, not the ones who'd like to bury you.

Shannyn Moore is a radio broadcaster.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@alaskadispatch.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@alaskadispatch.com or click here to submit via any Web browser.

Shannyn Moore

Shannyn Moore is a radio broadcaster. You can hear her show, "The Last Word," Monday through Friday 4-6 p.m. on KOAN 95.5 FM and 1080 AM and 1480 We Act Radio in Washington, D.C., and on Netroots Radio.The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)alaskadispatch.com.

Sponsored