"For too long we've been told in a loud, liberal voice that, "We simply cannot cut any further." But those of us who feel freedom in our veins know this is absolutely false."
- Rep. Kohring
With the Legislature having just convened I have been asked to discuss what I expect we will accomplish this year. From my viewpoint there's one overriding issue that will have to be dealt with, the ongoing budget deficit.
As an optimist I maintain since we have a Republican governor and majority in the Legislature, there's no excuse for not decisively acting to trim and abolishing unneeded government programs to help bring our spending more in line with income. For too long we've been told in a loud, liberal voice that, "We simply cannot cut any further." But those of us who feel freedom in our veins know this is absolutely false.
No doubt there will be a continued hue and cry from Democrats demanding more government taxing and spending. This time we ought and should take the right steps quietly and with resolve to cut spending and at the same time make government a lot more efficient than it currently is. I have firmly believed my entire political life that this is the moral thing to do. The next question is where should the cuts be made, how much and how fast. Fortunately we have time to allow attrition to help us as we sharpen up our knives.
Moreover our new Republican governor campaigned on the theme of no new taxes and balancing the budget in the long term. Here is where the plot thickens and gets most interesting. I fervently hope Governor Murkowski succeeds with his efforts to follow through on his campaign pledges. With his leadership we will be able to take command of past political extravagances. If he does take a firm hand in this matter he can certainly count on my strong support to hold the line. I have no crocodile tears for government programs that waste my constituents' money and should have never been created in the first place.
Government should be involved in the protection of rights, not micromanaging or engineering economies. The economy will grow in leaps and bounds if the state consistently stays out of the way. For proof, look at the first 150 years of our country's history, and in part what we have today. From a freedom perspective government should get out of the business of messing with the private sector.
For example, we shouldn't order the oil industry to build a gas pipeline, nor should we, as some in Juneau insist, build a government-owned pipeline. We should as a government allow the economy to be free and let people make their own decisions. To be free we should put individual rights first and government restrictions second. Further, we shouldn't influence the private sector in such a way that oil companies are seduced into major capital projects only to have the Legislature five or 10 years from now renege on whatever is used to create the lure. In another words, consistency is the key.
No, what we need is to create an overall political and regulatory climate that will ring with stability and minimum government intervention. In other words, oil companies, indeed all private entities should know that they will not be unduly taxed, nor will they have to hire an army of lawyers to protect themselves from an avalanche of complex and unneeded bureaucratic carping. Regulations and taxes should be fair, minimal and above all...clear.
When it comes time to debate a proposed gas pipeline, we ought to be mindful of the point of view of private companies who would actually build and run it. Do they want to build one? And if so, under what conditions?
When we have a debate about a gas line, we should have a known position and be consistent with it. We should not waste Alaskans' money on attorneys and planners for a gas line which properly belongs in the private sector. What we can do is let any potential pipeline builder know that we won't create unnecessary government restrictions to encumber his efforts. We should and will play neutral facilitator to all business that brings work to Alaskans.
Such an even-handed policy by state government over a period of time will be the best way of bringing new business to our state. Businesses that know the state won't attempt to strangle them with future taxes and controls will find Alaska a welcome place and flock to us. If we don't do this, we may end up like Washington State with Boeing fleeing to Chicago to get out of Washington's bull-in-a-China-shop taxation and control.
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Vic Kohring is a fifth term Republican, representing Wasilla in the Alaska State Legislature and is Chairman of the Special Committee on Oil & Gas.