Beyond the budget: A vision for Alaska

Alaska is in the middle of the greatest fiscal debate in a generation, driven by unsustainable growth in our state spending. Fixing this problem will require the right tools, benevolent rather than divisive leadership, and an optimistic vision for the future.

Alaska spends more per capita than nearly any other state. There is room to reduce spending beyond what the Legislature did this year, but a phased approach gives us time to identify efficiencies and common ground. Re-evaluating what we do and how we do it is a community discussion, but one that is overdue.

Regardless of the shape of our government, we need to check the growth of our spending, so we stay within our means. With an effective spending cap, the state can avoid future painful, rapid cuts like those seen across our communities and organizations during the past few years since oil prices fell. A spending cap is a useful tool, but without an accompanying vision, our state can’t flourish.

As a member of the state senate since 2016 and someone heavily engaged in the non-profit field, I have observed that Alaska institutions, public and private, work best when they work collaboratively. With that in mind, here are three key elements – three Es – that can help define our path forward:

  1. Essentials: The state should join forces with non-profit organizations and health care providers to maximize matching fund dollars to ensue vulnerable Alaskans have access to essentials such as housing, food, healthcare and safety. By working together and not in silos, the state can harness and expand the collective wisdom of everyone working on any given issue. 
  2. Education: Second, investment in education starting with appropriate funding for Head Start, followed by K-12 and secondary education. It is critical that the state works hand-in-hand with the university, school districts and job training centers, including vocational technical education, to create an educated, job-ready workforce. 
  3. Economic Opportunity: Finally, our state should work with private industry to ensure that our natural resources are fully and responsibly developed and to guide the building of infrastructure to provide jobs, pay corporate taxes, and expand wealth and opportunities in our state. 

Although any one of these three priorities could individually consume the state budget, policy makers need to allocate finite resources amongst them to create a forward-looking, comprehensive strategy that benefits us all.

Alaska wins when our communities are connected with roads or broadband, where homelessness is drastically reduced, where people can have access to a primary care health provider either in person on through telemedicine.

Alaska wins when education is a team sport. When citizens pitch in, all working towards a collective goal, which is educating our youth to be prepared, with grit and confidence, for the options before them when they graduate.


Alaska wins when our university is leading research on the Arctic and cold climates; when Alaskans have a wide variety of choices of jobs and careers, so they may work hard, have pride, and reach their own highest potential.

My grandfather Elmer Rasmuson once said, “One cannot build a prosperous state with a hatchet.” Effective reform is born from finesse, creativity and a good plan.

It has been my honor to serve Alaska as a senator for the past three years and I look forward to seeing what opportunities we can develop together for our future.

Natasha von Imhof is a fourth-generation Alaskan, works as a financial analyst and sits on several non-profit boards. She served on the Anchorage School Board and now serves as Senator for southwest Anchorage. She is co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

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