Executive Director's Message

First 100 days are opportunity to do what’s right for Alaska

The first “100 Days” of the first term of a U.S. president are used to measure the successes and accomplishments during the time that his power and influence are greatest. That’s when you live up to your promises. There have been a lot of promises made during the 2016 campaign, and depending on what you read, the list that Donald Trump has pledged to do in his first 100 days is extensive.

During the long campaign, Trump consistently brought up what is wrong with the federal government. Washington is broken. We have an often-dysfunctional Congress; legislation is controlled by special interests and not by what is best for America. That’s why he wants to “drain the swamp.”

He talked about opening more land to mining and drilling, improving trade deals to keep jobs in America, making our borders more secure by cracking down on illegal immigration, replacing Obamacare, appointing conservative judges, cutting taxes and making the tax code simpler and reducing regulations.

What is said in the heat of campaign rhetoric gets to the reality of what is possible. The art of any deal, especially in politics, involves some compromise. I’m optimistic that we will see a president who will deal with things sensibly and realistically in a way that is based on practical, businesslike, no-nonsense solutions rather than the usual “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.”

In the 2002 election, a Republican majority took over the U.S. Senate, adding to its control of the U.S. House of Representatives and the White House. Many Alaskans were overjoyed with the election that elevated Sen. Ted Stevens to chair the powerful Appropriations Committee. It was said the planets were aligned and it would be the beginning of good times again in Alaska.

With control of both branches of government, Congress went on an unprecedented spending spree. Congressional earmarks, epitomized by the Bridge to Nowhere, became an object of national ridicule and a symbol of the fiscal irresponsibility of Congress toward the money entrusted to it by the taxpayers.

The arrogance of the spending spree soon cost Republicans the majority in the House and the Senate and contributed to losing the White House in 2008. That election gave control of both branches to Democrats. Control was short-lived after the Affordable Care Act was forced on the American public and led to the famous quote, “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

In 2010, the House changed, and soon after so did the Senate.

The pendulum swings back and forth. When you are given too much power and you don’t treat that responsibility with a certain amount of discretion and respect, the voters take some of it away. That’s one of the things that make America great; the people can take the privilege of power away.

President Obama had a Democratic majority in both houses for his first two years, and Trump will have the advantage of Republican majorities in both houses of Congress. Many Alaskans believe the planets are once again aligned.

But there is another “100 Days“ that should be on all Alaskans’ minds. That is the roughly 100 days of the next state legislative session. The November election shuffled the deck in Washington. It also shuffled the deck in Juneau. The state Senate managed to maintain its Republican-controlled bipartisan coalition, while the House switched altogether to a Democrat-controlled bipartisan coalition. This is a recipe for a stalemate.

The public wants the Legislature to fix our fiscal problem. The “fix” is a blend of new revenue (taxes), reduced spending (budget cuts) and using Permanent Fund earnings to fill the gap.

But before the Permanent Fund earnings are tapped, many on the right want reduced spending and many on the left want new revenue. It will take some real statesmanship on both sides to come to agreement. We saw some of that last year with several major pieces of legislation that passed with strong bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition. Last year the Senate voted to tap the Permanent Fund earnings but the House couldn’t get the votes.

In politics, today it isn’t about what the piece of legislation is and what it means to our country or our state and our citizens. It is how that legislation can be used for the maximum political advantage. We see it in Washington, D.C. We see it in Alaska’s Legislature too.

A legislator’s oath of office is not to a party or group of constituents but to the constitution, the laws and the people of Alaska. Do what’s right for Alaska.