Local delegation frustrated with legislative struggles

Aug 9, 2017

 

Sen. Peter Micciche and Reps Gary Knopp and Mike Chenault review state budget numbers at a joint meeting of the Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce Wednesday at the Soldotna Sports Center.
Credit Shaylon Cochran/KDLL

 

It was a frustrating year in Juneau. That was one of the main takeaways from the central peninsula’s delegation to the capitol.

Representatives Mike Chenault and Gary Knopp, along with Senator Peter Micciche offered their thoughts on the this past legislative session at a joint meeting of the Kenai and Soldotna Chambers of Commerce Wednesday. On the budget, and the budget deficit, Micciche said as time passes, the questions only become more difficult.

“We are at the point of at least considering what type of revenue might work for Alaskans if we get to that point. We are still interested in future economic diversification where we’re not just counting on the revenue from one commodity to fund our government. If you want to know why we’ve been somewhat resistant on taxes on Alaskans, we’re in the middle of a recessions. Our economy is struggling. We don’t believe it’s time to slap Alaskans and Alaskan corporations and companies and mom and pop organizations with income taxes.”

Former House Speaker Mike Chenault agreed, of course. But he says regardless of any plans presented to shore up state finances, agreement is a rare bird in Juneau these days.

“Some think that today, the sky is falling and we need to institute multiple taxes on Alaskans. And we all know that, in my opinion, we can’t cut the budget far enough that we won’t need new revenue if oil prices stay where they’re at. But, there’s a lot of different ways that it could be addressed, but you’ve got to get 21 people in the House, 11 people in the Senate and the Governor to agree and that’s where it starts falling apart. Each and every one of them.”

Chenault says changes in leadership didn’t do much to bring opposing sides together, and neither did the new House Majority Coalition’s rule changes.

“I was Speaker for eight years. I’ve been there 17. I’ve never seen the Speaker limit debate on the House floor. So, numerous rule issues. I can understand part of that. You’re new, you’ve never been in leadership, but I attempted to help them numerous times and was basically met with ‘we’re going to do it this way whether you like it or not’. And then there’s the Rule of 21, always. So that was probably the most frustrating thing on my part, is to see the institution treated the way that it was and the rules treated the way that they were.”

All three legislators hoped that more dealing could be done behind the scenes, as was done in the lead up to last month’s one-day special session that saw approval of the state’s capital and operating budgets.