Petersburg Pilot -

State budget crisis community meeting at the Sons

 


In nearly every conversation related to borough government, capital projects or borough services, you can’t help but hear a borough employee or staffer say something along the lines of “with the state budget the way it is…” or “without any money coming from the state…”

The warnings have become almost cliché during Borough Assembly meetings and in coffee shop politics talk. But what, exactly, is the challenge we’re facing and what can we do about it? This Friday you’ll have an opportunity to find out.

State officials and employees will host an interactive budget presentation and discuss the state’s fiscal crisis this Fri., Jan. 15 in the Sons of Norway Hall at 5 p.m.

Representative Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins and the Alaska Department of Revenue’s Ken Alper will give the interactive presentation.

After talking through issues regarding the state budget deficit and associated challenges, the presenters will provide a scale and different sized color coded wooden blocks representing dollar amounts and revenues and expenditures such as costs and revenues associated with the state budget such as the ferry service, education, the PFD and oil revenues.

“We’ll bring someone out of the audience and see if they can balance the budget, like physically balance the budget,” Kreiss-Tomkins said. “One has to literally balance the budget with these blocks. It’s like a game show and it’s a blast.”

Petersburg will be the third municipality in the state to experience the presentation after Sitka and Anchorage.

As oil prices and production falls, the state’s main source of funding, oil revenues, are on the decline. The state has already significantly decreased capital project spending and more cuts are likely to come.

And many state officials agree new sources of revenue are needed. The presenters will also present the governor’s plan to create new revenues in the form of a state income tax and a change to the PFD.

Kreiss-Tomkins said this is a challenge all Alaskans must understand and solve together.

“It’s a colossal problem,” Kriess-Tomkins said. “We as Alaskans need to find a solution. And this sort of scale and conversation is a good way for us as Alaskans to get a sense of what solutions are out there.”

Senator Bert Stedman and Borough Lobbyist Ray Matiashowski may attend as well.

 

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