New Rasmuson poll says Alaskans want action on budget crisis

JUNEAU — The Rasmuson Foundation on Wednesday released the results of a new public opinion poll on the state's fiscal crisis showing that a solid majority of Alaskans want the Legislature to take steps to fix the problems.

The foundation, one of Alaska's largest nonprofits with $625 million in assets, is promoting a plan to help balance the state's $3.8 billion deficit that would rely on both cuts and new revenue — two elements that many experts say are necessary, even though legislators have been skeptical about levying taxes or reducing Alaskans' Permanent Fund dividends. The poll results support the plan promoted by the foundation.

The survey of 800 Alaskans, conducted earlier this month, shows that most underestimated or weren't sure of the size of the spending cuts made by state legislators last year — about $400 million, or 9 percent, from the operating budget, and $500 million, or 80 percent, from the capital budget.

Eighty-three percent of respondents said they were less likely to support legislators who take no action to fix the budget crisis. And 55 percent of people who had heard about Gov. Bill Walker's proposal to close the budget gap, which involves an income tax and smaller dividends, said they would support it, compared to 32 percent who were opposed and 13 percent who weren't sure.

The results were presented Wednesday at a lunch reception at the Capitol, with salmon sandwiches provided by the Rasmuson Foundation. About 25 lawmakers — nearly half the Legislature — attended in person, along with staff members and lobbyists.

Diane Kaplan, the foundation's president, presented the poll results, along with Jeff Cook, a Rasmuson board member and a former employee of Koch Industries, for which he now works as a consultant and lobbyist.

Nathaniel Herz

Anchorage-based independent journalist Nathaniel Herz has been a reporter in Alaska for nearly a decade, with stints at the Anchorage Daily News and Alaska Public Media. Read his newsletter, Northern Journal, at natherz.substack.com