The ADN Editorial Board recently advocated for a spending cap which they view as a first step towards a fiscal plan. Well, good news, Alaska already has one!
In 1982 we added Article IX, Section 16 to our constitution which instituted an appropriations limit. Of course the limit was never used because population and inflation growth outpaced our available revenue. We can’t seem to spend enough to hit that ceiling, it was too high. Oops.
That’s the problem with a spending cap, it’s hard to get right. An arbitrary cap is going to be too high or too low and risk further muddling the budgeting process down the road because it’s hard to predict the future. Just look at Texas, a conservative governor wants to pay out property tax relief amid a surplus but it would mean blowing the cap or competing with other services like education.
I frankly don’t know why any of the “run government like a business” folks would favor a spending cap. Flexiblity and freedom in decision making is one of the hallmarks of a small business. You want to be agile, you want to scale, you need to be able to react to changing times.
Let’s imagine Alaska suddenly strikes on a new wave of wealth, we’re the only source of unobtanium in the world. Great news! But along with unobtanium mining comes a whole host of new regulatory roles to ensure we aren’t poisoning our children’s air and water. And we’re going to need a drone pilot training program to make sure Alaskans are hired onto the transport and logistics teams. It takes money to make money.
Then there’s the unexpected disasters, the wildfires, the earthquakes, the exploding arctic methane bubbles. Sure, you can create spending cap carveouts for emergencies and then watch as everything in search of funding becomes an emergency. A cap with holes is no cap at all, and a cap without holes just gums up decision making.
Why advocate for a spending cap when we should be concentrating on the other side of the equation, revenue?
Alaska is currently enjoying a forty-three year income tax holiday. We’re a state infested with wealth extractors who take, take, take and then hop on a jet and flap away to somewhere warmer. We’re steeped in a kind of economic colonialism that borders on piracy. And it needs to end.
We have a terrible homelessness problem and people who are months behind on receiving food stamps. We’re closing our schools and struggling to retain teachers. And we have a critically embarrassing record on sexual assault and violence against women.
We don’t need a spending cap. We need to invest in Alaska, and that takes money well spent.
— Pat Race
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