Gov Walker Were taking each step as we can

first_imgRevenue Commissioner Randall Hoffbeck, Budget Director Pat Pitney and Alaska Gov. Bill Walker held a press conference on Wednesday, June 1, 2016 in Juneau, Alaska. Lawmakers approved a budget that draws heavily from state savings, Walkers administration is advocating for different sources of revenue. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)Alaska Governor Bill Walker started this year calling for three things to solve the state’s budget crisis: restructuring the Permanent Fund, cutting subsidies for oil and gas companies, and instituting taxes, including an income tax.Two of those planks moved forward this week. The full Legislature passed an oil tax bill, and the Senate passed a Permanent Fund bill, which would cut dividends in half this year. That cut will be felt most acutely by low-income Alaskans.But the Legislature has so far balked at the idea of an income tax, which would have a bigger impact on higher-income Alaskans.APRN’s Rachel Waldholz sat down with the Governor to get his take on the current situation. She started by asking about the dividend cuts.Download AudioWaldholz: Is that fair? Are we balancing the budget on the backs of poor Alaskans?Walker: Well, we’re taking each step as we can. We can’t put everything across the finish line at the same moment. The reason we had all the pieces we had is to have exactly that — have that balance. To make it as balanced as possible. You have to start off with one piece, and that’s the first piece that came across.Waldholz: What about the impact on rural Alaska of PFD cuts. Are you worried about that?Walker: Of course I am. Every decision that’s made in Juneau impacts different areas differently, there’s no question about that. This impact on rural Alaska will be disproportionate, there’s no question. The cost of everything in rural Alaska is higher. [But ] the  amount of the dividend is about the average we’ve received since the dividend was in place. It wasn’t that many years ago, a few years ago the dividend was $800.  So, you know, we’d like it to be as high as possible, but we just can’t continue to fund government out of the savings account. Waldholz: Do you think it will pass the House, that a similar bill will pass the House?Walker: I do. I do, because it has to. We just don’t have the alternative. There’s not a better option out there. If there was one, I would certainly hope somebody would have brought it to our attention at this point. So I believe it will pass, because it has to.Waldholz: What about the oil and gas tax credit bill. This was another key plank of your plan, this was a key part of reigning in state spending, and the Legislature passed a version that would save significantly less money than what you proposed. Are you satisfied with that? Will you sign that bill?Walker: You know, I haven’t seen the bill itself. I’m familiar with what it says, but it has to go through legal review, so I will withhold what I will do with that bill until I see it. You know, they did a lot of good work. They didn’t go as far as I would have liked to have gone, but I won’t diminish what they did do. But I think there’s more than can be done. I think they know that, as well. The question is when is that going to get done. That’s all part of the mix at this point. Waldholz: This Legislature hasn’t always been incredibly receptive to some of your ideas. And I’m wondering, are you planning to campaign for a different legislature next year? Are you going to be campaigning for candidates to get a legislature that maybe is more aligned with your vision for going forward?Walker: Well, I’ll tell you, right now, I’m campaigning for the fiscal package. That’s my sole focus is getting the fiscal package, as much of that across the finish line this year as we possibly can, so we’re not in the same situation next year, and the next year and the next year. So that’s the campaign I’m focused on right now. We’re in special session, and  hopefully we’ll get that done yet this special session.Waldholz: Do you anticipate another special session after this one?Walker: If needed, I will call it. If we don’t get enough done, if we don’t end up with the legislation to fix Alaska,  at least the larger pieces, I would certainly call another one.last_img

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