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Austerman to Chair New Fiscal Policy Subcommittee


House Finance Committee’s move raises issue of Alaska’s financial future

“How can we use the wealth of today to support tomorrow’s needs?”

Tuesday, February 2, 2010, Juneau, Alaska – House Majority Whip Alan Austerman, R-Kodiak, today thanked his peers on the House Finance Committee, notably the Co-Chairs, for creating the House Finance Fiscal Policy Subcommittee, which he will chair.

House Finance Committee Co-Chairs Mike Hawker, R-Anchorage, and Bill Stoltze, R-Chugiak/Mat-Su, worked with Austerman to spearhead the committee’s growth from an idea to reality, following numerous talks over the interim and legislative session.

“I appreciate the leadership that Co-Chairs Hawker and Stoltze have taken on this issue. I take the responsibility of my assignment as Chair of the new Fiscal Policy Subcommittee very seriously,” Austerman said. “I am grateful that the members of Finance are underscoring the importance of this issue through their participation. This will be one of the most important policy conversations of our time. Our actions in the coming years will shape Alaska’s future for a generation.”

“The most important policy discussion of our time is about the state’s long-range fiscal prospects,” Co-Chair Hawker said. “High oil prices in recent years have masked the underlying dysfunction in Alaska’s economy: our near total dependence on rapidly declining North Slope oil revenue.”

“I appreciate the leadership role that Representative Austerman has had in initiating the policy discussion about Alaska’s fiscal outlook and the challenges that lay ahead,” Co-Chair Stoltze said.

Austerman acknowledges that the subcommittee’s work won’t result in immediate returns. “We’re not looking for a quick fix. I envision a conversation that lasts throughout 2010 and brings us into the 2011 session with a pathway for future legislatures to execute a fiscal plan.

“My goal is to have a realistic and honest conversation about the future of life in Alaska with declining oil. We tend to look to the gas pipeline as the next great thing,” Austerman said. “But that’s not a certaintyToday we depend on oil for nine out of ten dollars that pay for state government. We need to plan for a different future. I and all legislators need to ask ourselves this question: how can we use the wealth of today to support tomorrow’s needs?”

The subcommittee will organize following the regularly-scheduled House Finance Committee meeting on Thursday, Feb. 4.

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