Kodiak’s State Senator, Gary Stevens, and State Representative Louise Stutes visited the Kodiak City Council at its work session on Tuesday (1/9). They were there to give the council an update of what the legislature will focus on in its upcoming session.
It didn’t seem like a surprise to anyone when Senator Stevens said the main challenge facing Alaska right now is balancing its budget.
“I would vote for an income tax if it came before us. I would vote for the use of the permanent fund. The house has moved forward on that, the Senate has dragged its feet. I can tell you it’s not going to happen again this year again. The revenue is the biggest issue we have. We are short over $2 billion in revenue. We can’t seem to answer how to solve that except use our savings.”
Stevens said the state only has another year before it runs out of its savings. He thinks the reason the legislature hasn’t come up with a solution to the state’s financial situation is that residents can’t figure out what they want to do.
“If it were easy we would have solved this a long time ago. It’s not easy and the problem is that Alaskans can’t agree on what they want. You know, I’ve talked to over the years folks here in Kodiak have been understanding and many people have said ‘we don’t like an income tax, but if you have to have it then do it and get on with things.’ But they’re not saying that in the Valley or in Fairbanks and in other areas.”
Councilman John Whiddon told Senator Stevens that the legislature needs to start making some hard decisions, like cutting its budget. Stevens said it is.
“We have cut the state employees substantially. Just hundreds of folks. We’ve also reduced our budget substantially, but you can’t balance the budget by cutting it, as you well know. You have to at some point find some additional revenues.”
Representative Stutes pointed out the State House of Representatives is ready to create policies that’d generate revenue, like a state income tax. But the Senate isn’t on board yet. She says Alaska isn’t able to support itself anymore, which is a problem.
“You know, for two and a half generations the state has paid the bills with no help. We’ve had no state income tax, property tax, sales tax. Nothing and everybody’s gotten a check, and somethings going to have to change somewhere.”
Stutes told the council there probably won’t be any new sources of state money for Kodiak this year. That’ll probably include funding for the city’s capital projects, such as building a new fire station. Senator Stevens said it’s possible that there could be some funding for projects in communities, but didn’t give many details.
The next legislative session for both the state house of representatives and senate will begin later this month.