Inside/Outside morning news roundup for 12.31

  • In news that doesn’t surprise anybody, the Juneau Empire reports that Gov. Bill Walker will not put into play tactics to delay commercial marijuana.
  • Roll Call has a great piece about how although the professional pollsters and prognosticators got North Carolina’s Senate race wrong, the real tea-leaves could be found on twitter.
  • My take on the best and worst of 2014 Alaska politics here. Make sure to read the comments, many of which are more interesting than what I came up with.
  • Gov. Bill Walker released a letter that delegates his authority to Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott on any lawsuit he took part in against the state, pointedly mentioning Point Thompson. The new AG Craig Richards, who was Walker’s law partner, also similarly delegated authority earlier this month.
  • The Business Insider has the postmortem on the oil market’s first casualty. It turns out that it is a Texas LNG terminal plan, but it could have implications for other LNG export projects.
  • The Peninsula Clarion announced that the Alaska Legislature has a new snazzy website that will do something the older version couldn’t: automatically resize the format to fit the different types of devices that are commonly utilized now.

  • Hilcorp Energy Company has filed a new development plan for their Liberty prospect, per the Dispatch.
  • The House Natural Resources Committee is sending signals to political watchers, like the Washington Examiner, that in 2015 the committee is going to get tough on the Obama administration. According to the Examiner, incoming Chairman Rob Bishop, from Utah, is expected to be a “more conservative voice to its Senate counterpart, whose chairman is the more moderate Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska.”
  • Politico points out one of the biggest flaws of ObamaCare: Somebody forgot to hire proper PR handlers to combat the unrelenting opposition. 2015 might not be too late, but the tactics in mind might be too little.
  • What Politico has distilled form the 2014 midterm elections: Both parties will have challenges moving into 2016.
  • While only four applications have been received for the Fish and Game Commissioner position, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that that hasn’t stopped the vetting-wheels from moving forward.
  • The Hill details the biggest energy and environment stories of the year.
  • AK Inaugural Ball organization has the updated information about their balls throughout the state. Good news! Anchorage’s details are finally available.
  • Obama’s approval ratings end the year on the upswing. He is now back to 2013 levels of love from the public, so sayeth Gallup.
  • One of the first ripple effects of the minimum wage raise could be felt by the school districts with their bus drivers. The Peninsula Clarion explains that the law dictates that bus drivers are now to be paid double the minimum wage.
  • Prepare for the funnies! The Hill has its list of top political gaffs for the year, or better known as foot-in-mouth

14 thoughts on “Inside/Outside morning news roundup for 12.31

  1. Garand Fellow

    Protecting freedom is just as important as reducing spending to match income. I expect them to do both. We are all to be blamed for the overspending, as in the aggregate we demanded even much greater spending than what was approved. And we demanded it year after year.

    If the Freedom Caucus reduces government intrusion into our lives, and if the finance committees reduce spending such that one-time funds are not used to meet recurring expenses (exactly what the credit rating agencies need to see to preserve state and municipal credit ratings) then Alaskans will be very fortunate and should be very proud.

  2. Garand Fellow

    Yes, it is too early to say he has failed. But he did say he would immediately stop using savings to meet daily state expenses. He said that over and over again. He criticized Parnell time after time for spending $7 million a day more than the state was taking in, and he said he would not wait for the new fiscal year to stop doing that. He said he would stop it right now. Alaskans and the credit rating agencies await that action. Every day more savings are spent and therefore options become fewer.

  3. Shattered

    Where were you this time last year AH HA? We were running at a unsustainable deficit then and no one seemed to care. Anyone who did bring up the subject was labeled a liberal or communist. But as soon as there’s a new Governor, something’s gotta be done about this. It seems disingenuous to me.

    Neither the Executive nor the Legislative branch took any action to reduce State expenditures and that was fine. In fact, the Administration and the Legislative Majority were busy patting one another on the back over what a great job they had done at the end of the last session.

    My big gripe is that most of these politicians who claim to be fiscal conservatives are anything but. The LIO in Anchorage is a prime example. Most are self serving opportunists and should be recognized for what they are. Corporate welfare and legislation that limits competition or gives an advantage to the corporate benefactors is perfectly okay.

    So, you say that it would be easier if the Legislature doesn’t do their jobs of vetting and amending the proposed budget because their names will be associated with the proper vetting and amendment of the budget? That they would have to admit that they are part of the problem and that’s wrong somehow? I really can’t argue that it would be easier for them. It is always easier not to do your job. I guess it’s better that they have their names associated with wild overspending. Associated with their inability or unwillingness to do what they were elected to do.

    Maybe the average voter will get fed up enough to actually make it to the polls and fire them. Maybe they won’t be taken in by slick commercials, catchy jingles, and a really nice suit and tie some lobbyist or corporation bought for them with campaign funds. Maybe this will happen when their road isn’t plowed, their kid can’t read or they can’t get a trooper when they need one. (For what it’s worth, I think education is over funded in this state, but if there is no funding, kids won’t be educated.)

    The sad truth is that if they are voted out of office, they will likely be replaced with another person who is beholden to some corporate benefactor or special interest group. And those who were voted out of office will get a good paying cherry job with someone related to those who’s water they carried while they were in office.

    History is likely to repeat itself, but I’m hopeful it won’t.

  4. AH HA

    Since Alaska, Unlike the Federal Government does not get to print money, balancing our budget is a Pass / Fail test. We either balance it and get a ‘pass’ or we don’t and we ‘fail’. Half measures and ‘doing a lot’ go in the ‘fail’ column.

    As I noted earlier, for many decades we Alaskans in general and our elected officials in particular have made consistently poor choices and now the bill has come due.

    We are now in a situation where very difficult things must be done and need to be done quickly and decisively by a leader who is willing to lead.

    Our present financial situation should have come as no surprise to either Walker or Mallott and both should have begun developing a plan to deal with it about a year ago and there is no reason that significant action could not have been taken in the very first days of their administration. Yet, the best that they could do was retain the budget document from the previous administration and throw in a few minor ‘cuts’ that don’t get the state even a quarter of the way to a balanced budget.

    Politically, the Legislature is in a tougher position than Walker /Mallott are since for them to take the drastic action required, they (both sides of the isle) first have to admit that they have long been part of the problem. Then, they have to lead… something that is actually nearly impossible for a committee to accomplish in a consistent manner since they are a deliberative body and were never designed as a executive power.

    The easiest thing to do is for the Governor to get the bull by the tail and start making the required cuts. The legislature will agree to almost any cut he proposes since for the most part they all realize that it needs to be done and that in this way, they don’t have to attach their names to the cuts.

  5. Cece

    Really- he has been in office less than a month and has gotten off to a great start-some of these post are just sheer baloney!

  6. GOPer

    Great article about twitter and its impact on a political race. We can expect to see social media pay a greater and greater role in politics.

  7. Jeremy

    The sad thing about 2014 is that we elected a team that we believed wanted to do what was right and would offer real take charge leadership. Instead, we got a bunch of baloney. Walker and Mallott, the co-disappointers, are not dealing with the fiscal crisis as a crisis, Walker during the campaign insinuated on multipoccasionms that he would likely drop the Pt Thomson suit and its obvious now that he was just lying. I’m starting to think Captain Zero looks good compared to Walker and his team of incompetence.

  8. Shattered

    You did hear about the walker administration stopping spending on six large capital projects didn’t you? Is that doing nothing?

    And you do realize that the Legislative branch are the ones that appropriate funds don’t you? The Executive branch proposes a budget and the Legislative branch determines what does and what doesn’t get funded. Therefore the Legislative branch is just as culpable if not more so than the Executive branch considering the Legislative branch appropriated the funds.

    Sean wouldn’t have gotten us into a mess like this if we would have only re-elected him. This is Walker and Mallott’s fault and if the dirty hippies and communists hadn’t voted them into office, everything would be fine. Luckily TAPS is nearly full right now due to the wise actions of Sean and his staff.

    We Alaskan’s have ourselves to blame for this mess. Sean would have delivered us from evil if we would only have marked the correct box in the voting booth.

  9. AH HA

    To be completely honest, looked at over the long term our real budget problem has been chronic since the mid 1970’s and it involves our income stream as much as our spending habits. We have allowed our income to be tied almost completely to revenue derived from a single source. Oil.
    The people of Alaska and our elected officials are equally guilty of allowing this to occur and in fact, a case can be made that there have been many times when the State was given opportunities to significantly enhance the possibilities for a diversified economy and a diversified income stream and chose not to do so.
    In a general sense a sound economy relies chiefly on plentiful cheap power, a sound network of transportation and communication infrastructure and the availability of a trained work force. All are the basic building blocks of a sound private industry based economy. For decades, our state has willfully refused to develop any of those things while the opportunity was available and instead chose to ‘invest’ Billions of dollars in massive social entitlement programs. Our ‘Investment’ has borne fruit, and we now find that we have a large population of voters who are largely addicted to a plethora of social entitlements and state subsidies that we can no longer afford to provide, an economy that is tied closely to a single revenue stream that is rapidly declining and we have made no significant investments in our future.

    What do we do now? We have left ourselves with little choice. We cannot now afford to make any significant investments in infrastructure and even if we did it takes years to realize a significant return on the investment. We could choose to raise a tax, through a state sales tax or a state income tax or increasing taxes on business, however in order for such a tax to be enough to operate our state at current levels we would have to tax at such a rate that it is doubtful that the tax payer would consent. Our only other option is to massively cut both operating and capital budgets. Game playing and finger pointing will not get this done. We require a legislature and a governor who are willing to do the hard thing but it appears that the spine required is not present in either body.

  10. AH HA

    Yes Lynn, All those Legislators supported the spending that got us in this jam. Of course our Co-Governors seem to be more than willing to do nothing about it as well.

    I mean, a cut of 133 million? Come on man, Our erstwhile Co-Governors are as full of crap as the Legislators are.

    What Departments have the largest budgets?

  11. Andy

    Meet the new boss….same as the old boss. I really enjoy the bantering of the politicos who are attempting to re-write history, hence sidestepping their involvement in the budget debacle.

    Revisionist history tends to sweep past wrongdoings under the rug, so folks will not remember their fiscal sins at the ballot box. Can you say
    ” LIO corruption and Stoltze / Hawker” They were both re-elected handily, furthering the unabashed spending frenzy that is still going on.

    The public falls for jingles and political party affiliation, not the day to day shenanigans these folks pull. Competence, as Lynn opines, is a hard thing to come by. Most folks in Juneau have no moral compass, and get lost in the uncontrolled ego that power brings. The real problem is power is directly proportional to money spent, hence the perpetual budgetary conundrum.

  12. John Q. Public

    Spot on about the Freedom (from Personal Responsibility) Caucus. They are trying to continue to con their constituents and other Alaskans that it was someone else who voted for unsustainable budgets the past few years, not Keller, Reinbold, or Hughes, and that , golly, they are simply shocked to find out we have a $3.5 billion deficit.

    And by joining the majority again they signed up for another 2 years of voting for the budget no matter what it spends. Perhaps they can do a reprise of some of their colleagues’ actions at voting time by crying in legislative leadership offices begging to be let out of their commitment to vote yes.

    And of course they have not proposed to reduce their own staff, office budgets, nor, of course, travel on legislative junkets.

  13. Lynn Willis

    Thank you Amanda for including the Bloomberg Article on oil prices. At least the first part of this article should be read by all Alaska Legislators and other elected officials.

    “Having seen numerous fluctuations in the energy markets over the years, many analysts and policy makers have a natural tendency to “look through” the latest drop in oil prices — that is, to treat the impact as transient rather than as signaling long-term changes. I suspect that view would be a mistake this time around. The world is experiencing much more than a temporary dip in oil prices. Because of a change in the supply model, this is a fundamental shift that will likely have long-lasting effects.”

    That is a valid observation containing both a sage warning yet a glimmer of hope of Alaska; however, our Alaska legislative majority will apparently hear none of it.
    The co-chair of Senate Finance has already opined that she is prepared to rely on the “look through” option. Her, and fellow legislative leadership members, have already made a most cynical and hypocritical attempt to hide their past behaviors and Constitutional responsibility by challenging Governor Walker to finally do something about excessive state spending. Please remember that every one of these senior legislators who challenged the new Governor in that letter have supported the spending that got us into this situation, if for no other reason, than a condition of membership in the majority caucus.
    Now today I read again in the ADN about the new Alaska legislative “Freedom Caucus”, which Amanda reported on months ago. This is just more of them desperately attempting to displace responsibility and inability to legislate by wrapping themselves in the state flag while spewing such malarkey as : “Our ultimate goal is to protect the rights of the people and defend freedom”
    Abraham Lincoln’s observation that : “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” is coming home to roost in Alaska. I don’t know how much longer Alaskans are going to put up with this incompetence; however, I venture that as future general elections pass, fewer and fewer of our current legislators and other elected officials will have a job and the competent will then take over to oversee the cleanup.

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