‘Most dysfunctional Legislature in history,’ Backbone Alaska says
Alaska’s lawmakers are being called the most dysfunctional Legislature in state history.
An unfunded budget and a multi-billion dollar deficit brought Vic Fischer and other prominent Alaskans together on Friday as part of a group called Backbone — and they didn’t hold back criticism of lawmakers.
“They will not talk to each other, they will not work with the governor, they work against the governor,” said Fischer, a former senator known as Alaska’s “Constitutional Father.”
Backbone was formed in 1999 by Alaskans of all political persuasions, including Gov. Wally Hickel, to advocate for certain oil and gas policies. Members said Friday that it’s unacceptable for a handful of legislators to be stalling on budget negotiations and not addressing oil tax credits as a solution to the state’s growing deficit.
Fischer has watched state politics since the 1950s, and says this group of lawmakers is making an unpopular mark.
“It is preposterous for the Legislature to not live up to its constitutional function of providing a balanced budget,” said Fischer. “They adjourned and pretend that all is well.”
House Speaker Rep. Mike Chenault says that assessment isn’t true.
“We are not stalling; our Finance committees met,” said Chenault. “While a lot is not being seen out in the public as far as the actual budget goes, talks are going on behind the scenes to try and come to some agreement on the three-quarter vote so that we can pass a fully funded budget.”
While the House Finance committee held some hearings on budget items in Anchorage, there’s no sign an agreement is close. Vacation time and the perception of a stalemate doesn’t sit well for Jane Angvik, former Anchorage Assemblywoman who’s also part of Backbone.
“If you or I did that, we probably wouldn’t have a job very long,” said Angvik. “We employ the legislators, we need to communicate to them that they have to come up with a budget, they have to create a way to fulfill their responsibilities.”
Backbone is also advocating for a change to the oil tax credit system.
“We the citizens of Alaska, through the state of Alaska, are paying more in production credits to the oil industry than we are receiving in production taxes from the oil industry,” Angvik said.
Jim Sykes, Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assemblyman, says the Legislature is digging the state into a deep hole by not addressing the credits being given to oil companies as incentives to explore for oil and develop fields.
Contact Kate McPherson at email@example.com
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