Rasmuson Foundation pledges statewide campaign for fiscal plan

It will be impossible to solve the state fiscal gap simply by cutting spending without "closing numerous schools, university campuses and eliminating life and safety services," the Rasmuson Foundation warned Monday as it announced plans for a statewide campaign on the urgent need to create a plan to fund state government in the years ahead.

The state is three years away from a financial cliff that threatens Alaska's future, the foundation said. The goal of the campaign, which the foundation plans to fund, is to present a plan to legislators and the governor. It hopes to "inspire a mandate from the public for elected officials to make the tough choices that are required."

"Only through public debate can we achieve a stable fiscal future," the foundation said, adding that "Alaska needs a plan, not prayers for higher oil prices and dreams of unknown oil wells."

Ed Rasmuson, chairman of the foundation that has distributed more than $250 million to communities across the state, said, "We want to maintain the quality of life our founders worked so hard to ensure."

Rasmuson recently met with Alaska leaders from various walks of life who concluded the state must consider additional spending cuts, a modest income or sales tax or a combination of the two, use of Permanent Fund earnings, capping the Permanent Fund dividend program and revising oil-tax credits to target the "best prospects, not every prospect."

Those actions could mean well more than $2 billion a year to help pay for state services, getting "within striking distance of a real, long-term balanced budget."

Rasmuson said the foundation wants to do what it can and invited people to get involved and offer ideas of their own. The foundation hasn't yet decided how much it will spend on its efforts, but Rasmuson said an internal budget will be prepared before the end of summer.

"Criticize our plan, pick it apart, suggest other options," the foundation said in a prepared statement. "We don't like these any more than you do and we'd be grateful if you can come up with options we haven't thought of."

He urged the governor to call a special session for the fall to begin making choices. He said the choices will be hard, but they will only get harder if nothing is done.