So far this legislative session, lawmakers have not yet come up with a long-range plan to pay for state government.

They effectively delayed a permanent budget fix by drawing from the state’s main savings account, the Constitutional Budget Reserve, to cover most of this year’s $4-billion budget gap. Next year, though, there won’t be enough in that account to cover the cost of running state government.

As lawmakers return to Juneau this week to resume a special session called by the governor, lawmakers will debate the cost of waiting another year to solve Alaska’s fiscal crisis.

The big question is: will they pass Senate Bill 128?

The measure restructures the permanent fund so it can help fund the budget and also provide dividend checks, though reduced from what we now receive.

The Senate has passed SB 128. As of last week, it was shy of the votes needed in the House to pass.

This week on Frontiers we explore the cost of waiting to fix Alaska’s fiscal crisis. Here are some of the highlights:

    • An update from KTVA’s political reporter, Liz Raines, on the status of the Special Session.
    • Cliff Groh, one of the architects of the permanent fund, and Joe Beedle, president and CEO of Northrim Bancorp, show us the pitfalls of using savings as the only tool to balance the budget. They use a model made of Jenga-like blocks to help us get our heads around the issue.
    • Our guests are Larry Persily and Dan Fauske. Both have served several governors. Persily is currently working as an oil and gas consultant for the Kenai Peninsula Borough. Fauske was head of the Alaska Natural Gasline Development Corporation.
    • We also take time out from politics to enjoy the sights and sounds of Juneau’s “Celebration,” which brings Native groups from across Southeast Alaska together, every two years, to share culture, traditions and history.

We hope this show gives you the tools to weigh the price of procrastination on a permanent budget fix. The decisions lawmakers make in the coming days will not only affect us today but far into the future.

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