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Austerity for Alaska’s Prosperity


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As I write this in mid-January oil continues going down—getting closer and closer to $40 a barrel by the day. There is no indication when it will stop or what will end up being collected from oil royalties this year. What is evident, though, is that state revenues collected from oil royalties will be a fraction of recent years, though still hundreds of millions more than not so terribly long ago.

Initially people were quoting Chicken Little: “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” After all, how could life in Alaska possibly continue with a few billion dollars less oil royalty revenue for the state’s annual coffers? Then as the sun continued to rise a little earlier every day (it’s that time of year), and in spite of the persisting downward spiral in oil prices, people began to realize the world is not going to end just yet. That’s when I started hearing William Shakespeare’s words: “True is that we have seen better days,” from his play “As You Like It.”

Well, of course, and worse ones too, which is why I offer some wise words from James Reston, a very insightful former editor of The New York Times, where he also served as a columnist and Washington correspondent. “Americans have always been able to handle austerity and even adversity. Prosperity is what is doing us in.”

Well there you have it: prosperity has done us in. We need austerity for our prosperity. We’ve been too indulgent with our spending and this is fast becoming “the winter of our discontent,” to borrow another line from Shakespeare, this one from his play “Richard III.”

At any rate, it should be an interesting legislative session in Juneau this year. Stay tuned and don’t forget to help this new administration—your ideas are being solicited in the “Voices for Vision Budget Survey” at gov.alaska.gov/Walker/press-room/budget-survey.html. Also, for specific case work issues, email governor@alaska.gov or call 907-465-3500.

It’s a clever contest actually, and the people with the top five ideas win lunch with the governor and lieutenant governor. Folks are asked to pick up to three types of cost-saving measures (Spending Cuts, Additional Revenue, Restructuring, or Partnerships) and areas of government (Education, Consumer Energy, Transportation & Infrastructure, Public Safety, Environmental Conservation, Fish & Game, Health & Social Services, Labor & Workforce Development, Administration, Legislature, Natural Resources, Military & Veteran Affairs, or Other) and then provide specific recommendations.

Speaking of recommendations, let me recommend the “2015 Power List,” which is available in print as well as the increasingly popular Excel download—go to akbizmag.com for that. Also, check out the app we released last month (read the magazine on any device) and our re-launched website (optimized for cross-platform viewing). There are also some great ideas throughout the magazine this month and in the two excellent special sections: Architects & Engineers and International Trade. The team has put together another really great magazine—enjoy!

—Susan Harrington, Managing Editor

This first appeared in the February 2015 print edition of Alaska Business Monthly magazine.

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