Fake News Rides Roughshod Over Budget Truth in Alaska

Lots of Fake News coming out of Juneau. Do you trust legislators to tell you the truth or are they beholden to special interests? Hold on to your wallets--here come taxes, taxes and more taxes.

by Bethany Marcum (emphasis and picture added)

During this legislative session, fake news has been prevalent in Alaska. We’ve heard that our state budget cannot be balanced without an income tax; we must cap the dividend and restructure the Alaska Permanent Fund to create a long-term budget plan; Alaskans don’t understand enough about our fiscal situation to be able to vote on a solution; and state government has been cut to the bone and more reductions are unreasonable. Well, don’t believe it — it’s all fake news.

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I know it’s all fake because I’ve done the math. You see, I work for the Legislature. This piece is not being written in any formal capacity as part of my position as an aide to Sen. Mike Dunleavy. These views are my own and my boss doesn’t even know I’m writing or submitting this. But I can’t sit idly by and let Alaskans hear only fake news. I worked extensively on fiscal plans with data provided by the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation and the Legislative Finance Division. Their data is real data. So I recognize fake data and news when I see it.

We worked through and found multiple fiscal scenarios that balance our budget long-term without an income tax. The reason we have a “revenue problem” is because we created a spending problem. The lack of spending restraint has prompted some to greedily call for an income tax — the more they collect, the more they can spend! But economists are clear: Making those who work pay a penalty for working is never good. It hurts families and the economy. And since the numbers show we can pull ourselves out of this without one, let’s take an income tax off the table. Don’t believe the fake news. We do not need an income tax.
“We must take your dividend to save your dividend,” is what I hear when legislators proclaim they must restructure the permanent fund. Alaskans created the fund to keep politicians’ hands off it. I’ve seen models that do not restructure the fund and yet the dividend is kept intact and keeps growing, all within the confines of a 10-year balanced budget. It pencils out with basic math. So don’t believe the fake news. We do not need to restructure the fund or cap the dividend to save it.

Although Alaskans were smart enough to create the permanent fund, some legislators appear to believe we aren’t smart enough to vote on a solution to the fiscal mess they have put us in by overspending. Legislators have gone on record stating that We the People can’t understand. They think it’s too complicated to be on the ballot. Oh, how lawmakers must feel to be endowed with special understanding when they’re in the ivory tower of the Capitol. It’s funny that some of those same legislators think we were super-smart when we voted “no” on repealing SB 21. So we’re smart enough to understand complicated oil taxation structure. Maybe we just lost our smarts since that vote in 2014? Don’t believe the fake news. We are smart enough.

To be clear, the fiscal scenarios I’m referring to require budget reductions. But fake news tells you that there’s nothing left to cut. When Alaska spending (per capita) is nearly double that of every other state in the union, do you think that’s true? Many reductions can be made simply by eliminating redundancies and creating efficiencies. Will it be hard? Oh yes — many legislators think it is even harder than simply taking your dividend, so they’ve chosen the latter. Don’t believe the fake news that budget reductions aren’t doable.
We all can be winners in these budget struggles if we are armed with the truth. We should get out our calculators and use simple math; the alternative is to believe the smoke-and-mirrors of moving money amongst funds and accounts to disguise facts. It’s time to stamp out fake news. It’s time for Alaskans to know the truth.

Bethany Marcum is an aide to Senator Mike Dunleavy,