Micciche eyeing more cuts as legislative session begins

Jan 20, 2020

 

Credit AK Legislature

Senator Peter Micciche held a townhall meeting in Soldotna Thursday night, just ahead of the opening of the second session of the 31st state legislature.

 

Even after years of reductions that have left about half the budget the state had five years ago, Micciche, like other Peninsula Republicans, is eyeing even more cuts this year. 

“I’m still interested in reductions where possible. I see the mix in this room. Some are going to panic that I talk about additional cuts. There’s not an organization in this world that can’t be run more efficiently. That’s just reality… 

Particularly when I had the Department of Transportation budget, I’ve tried to make that organization shaped like a triangle instead of a bell. When an organization is shaped like a bell, it means there’s a whole bunch of high priced managers near the top… When it’s shaped like a triangle, that’s the most efficient it can be, where you have the right amount of people being supervised by the right amount of people. When I made those cuts, also, (it) was with the instruction that the cuts couldn’t be someone who operated equipment. Those are the people you care about. Of course they’re also supervised by important people, but you’re going to feel the bite if they cut the lower end don’t do the same at the top end.

This is about priorities. We’re going to be looking at constitutionally-required services as a priority. If other services are important to you, I need to hear that. You all know how to reach me. I need to hear that from everyone in the district and the ones we can’t afford, I need to know some ideas on how you want to pay for them. Because if they’re services we can’t afford as we start getting to the baseline on the cost of this budget, then we’re going to have to talk about how you want to pay for them.”

But even with more cuts planned, a full PFD still leaves a big budget gap. Somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.25 billion, according Micciche’s numbers. Bridging that gap, if possible, will take compromise. But it will take the full legislative session, and probably more, to figure who compromises the most. Micciche says there are some options the Dunleavy administration has laid out.

“No matter where you are politically and what you think we should do, there are five choices. We’re all going to have to give up something. If any one group gets everything they want, something doesn’t work. I don’t care how conservative you are, I don’t care how liberal you are, if you get everything you want, it doesn’t work mathematically. 

I’m going to pick one of his choices that seems to be the one the administration is leaning toward. He called it a balanced approach. What his plan includes is $300-$500 million more in spending reductions; 50/50 future PFD, it’s a split of five percent (of earnings) half would go to the people, half would go to the government. It’s got modest revenue measures and all those new actions, in my view, must be about working with Alaskans for their suggestion and direction. 

I think the reason we’ve lost the trust as the legislature is it seems like we disappear and we do whatever we want to do and we don’t have enough feedback from our constituents. We have to bring people along. You have to take the time or else none of these solutions are going to be durable.  If legislators just go do what they want, say if legislators decided we could balance easily. Just stop paying the PFD. If you stop paying the PFD, that’s not durable because they will kill it by referendum and you have to start over again. If you start just by taxing working folks, it will fail in a referendum. You have to bring people along so that they feel heard, we have a balanced approach and people likely don’t have the incentive to go to a referendum and start all over again.”