We must protect the Alaska Permanent Fund
Alaska’s Permanent Fund has been identified in one presentation by the State’s economist as the largest contributor to jobs in Alaska. Above all, do no harm. Raiding the Permanent Fund first only undercuts Alaska’s economy long-term.
The Permanent Fund is part of the solution to Alaska’s fiscal crisis through the current recession. However, the PFD should be protected and we should not look to the Permanent Fund until we ensure the State meets its obligation to get the maximum through our natural resources and do the hard work of exploring other revenue options.
Protecting the PFD also requires Alaska to have a long-term fiscal plan that accounts for highs and lows in oil-based revenues.
We must prioritize Public Safety
Public safety is a core obligation of local and state government. We cannot cut funding to public safety and expect our communities will either feel safe or be safe.
The Legislature and Governor have cut funding to Public Safety in the last four years. Inadequate funding for troopers, the court system, jails, and prisons lead to communities without a system of accountability.
Passing SB91 without sufficient resources to implement it only further undermined public confidence. The fixes to SB91 passed in the most recent Legislative session are helpful. However, getting any good news out to the communities is falling short as they feel under siege in the face of rising crime rates. There are some fixes in place, but more is needed to get the job done.
I am proud to be a member of Abbott Loop Community Patrol in House District 25. My wife, Patti, decided to help organize the first group of neighbors for the Patrol. They work with the Anchorage Police Department, driving through our community during the day and night to deter crime and report unsafe conditions. Abbott Loop Community Patrol is a great, dedicated group of local citizens. I encourage you to make sure there is a healthy community patrol where you live!
Alaska Deserves a Long-Term Financial Plan
Alaska’s must operate on the basis of a strong, long-term fiscal plan. It is crucial to our fiscal health and building a strong future.
Demand for a long-term fiscal plan is not new. In 2016 I recall the Alaska Economic Development Council saying the Legislature is “napping” as financial markets have reduced Alaska’s bond ratings, passing along more costs to Alaska residents. The impact on local bonds only increases pressure on property taxes for Anchorage residents. Pushing state costs onto local communities in a recession is not a solution, it is an abdication of responsibility.
We must have a plan. We cannot cut our way out of the current financial crisis without devastating the State. The cuts-only approach crashed Alaska’s economy in the late 1980’s.
The Alaska Constitution states “The legislature shall provide for the utilization, development, and conservation of all natural resources belonging to the State, including land and waters, for the maximum benefit of its people.”
Our Children’s Need Quality Education with Accountability
Alaska’s Legislature is constitutionally required to “establish and maintain a system of public schools open to all children of the State.” Anchorage Schools are currently underfunded. The failure to keep up with inflation leads only gives us classroom sizes too large to achieve positive educational outcomes.
Based on an independent third party study conducted by PIcus Odem, Anchorage alone needs an additional $100 million annually to meet the educational needs of its current student population. Five years ago, an Alaska Senate study showed teacher salaries in Anchorage at 10 percent below a competitive rate. Teacher salaries have not increased to keep up with inflation, and it is reasonable to assume they are at least twenty percent below a competitive salary today.
The bottom line is that current student-teacher ratios are too high to provide quality education and the teachers we have are not appropriately compensated.
I served on the Anchorage School Board from 2008-2017. During that time, the School Board reduced administrative costs year-over-year, while watching the graduation rate climb from 64% in 2008 to 81% in 2017! Accountable budgeting goes a long way, but we still need quality teachers and more of them. When the Legislature looks for areas to cut, the must also meet the Constitutional obligation to adequately fund public education. Our children and youth deserve nothing less!
Rep. Ivy Sponshold introduced a bill to require medical providers to post the cost of the top 25 medical procedures. It is a start to obtain transparency in medical pricing, but only a start.
In 2017, a study presented to the Anchorage School Board reported that it costs TEN TIMES more for some medical procedures in Anchorage than Seattle. Some medical procedures cost four or five times more in Anchorage, so insurance companies pay transportation costs to fly patients to Seattle for surgery. Some medical providers will NOT provide follow-up medical care for surgery was not performed in their community, Anchorage. Alaska can and must do better to manage medical cost, transparency, and continuity of patient care.
In my career, I have served as an administrator for health care programs for employees, a member of the senior management team for hospitals, and a health insurance professional. The solution to affordable health care is exposing the excessive cost.
Different insurance companies establish different “reasonable and customary rates” for insured. When insured individuals obtain medical care, they don’t know if they are being charged more than what their insurance company has established as “reasonable and customary.” In the end, they don’t know how much they will be required to pay after insurance pays its share. Just so you know, THEY = YOU! There is no way to know ahead of time. You get the bill in the mail and the insurance company lets you in on your bad luck!
If elected, I will propose the State of Alaska establish minimum reasonable and customary rates that all insurance companies must use. I will also propose that medical providers will be required to disclose to patients if they are going to bill more than the reasonable and customary rate prior to providing non-emergency services.