I’ve been traveling and talking with folks across the interior about protecting the PFD and fixing the State budget.
Thank you very much to everyone from Cantwell, Denali National Park, Healy, Anderson, Nenana, and Two Rivers for your warm and welcoming hospitality! It’s been really inspiring to talk with so many people in their homes and have a cup of coffee and have folks take some time to talk with me about issues that are important in our communities and important to our families. Thankfully, old time Alaskan values and hospitality are alive and well in all of our rural interior communities.
Alaskans remember that just five years ago we were sitting on $16 billion in savings. Folks remember the energy rebate checks we got. We remember those good times and some of us are wondering how we got to where we’re at now, where we’re tapping into the PFD and people are talking about more taxes on us. When we had the ACES oil tax our budget was flush and we stock piled billions like an old timer stacking cord wood for winter: high and enough to last the coldest of winters. And now our kids are leaving our state for better opportunities elsewhere while we ponder the irony of having the highest unemployment rate in the nation while we live in the richest state in the richest nation in the world. We can get back on track by remembering the guidance from our Elders folks, they left us a document to go by, it’s called the Alaska Constitution.
The Alaska Constitution says that you own the oil, you as an Alaskan, not the state of Alaska. The State is supposed to be our broker, and the Constitution lays out the deal we’re supposed to get too, “maximum benefit for the people.” Jay Hammond said “1/3 for us, 1/3 for the feds, and 1/3 for the producers.” When the legislature passed SB 21 years ago giving away our oil, we lost our way in the process, and we’re going broke. We’re the only place using a profits based tax, every other state uses a production based tax. We’ve lost our way and we need to find our Constitutional values again, we need to be tough and fair. Neither the feds or the producers are going to give up their third, and neither should we.
Let’s be clear. We can fix our roads. We can get broadband in Salcha, Two Rivers, Fort Yukon and Tetlin. We can get running water in Venetie. We can certainly cut the cost of electricity by installing solar panels like the community of Hughes has already done. We can put a lot of struggling folks back to work building our state. We can do our part as citizens and defend our Constitutional rights. We can do it, but we have to stand up for ourselves and stop electing legislators who like to be pushed around by oil companies. We have to be tough but fair if we’re going to get our fair share and start rebuilding our state and protecting our PFD.
I am grateful for all of the folks I’ve talked with for standing up with me, and standing up for our shared values and shared future together. Thanks for this week, and tomorrow I’ll be back at it again talking with folks about Alaska’s future and the issues. I hope to earn your support and your vote. Mahsi’ choo.