Sitka’s Mayor Mim McConnell joined Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallot
in Anchorage Wednesday (12-9-15) when Walker released his ambitious plan for fixing Alaska’s budget.
McConnell says she was one of a handful of mayors from around the state invited to attend and show support for the governor’s plan.
“I was proud to be standing with them,” she said. “I totally believe in what they’re trying to do and I just am pleased that I was able to be here to show my support for the big picture. We’ll work out the details later.”
The state is facing a large deficit in coming years, due to declining oil prices and pipeline throughput. To keep things balanced, Walker has proposed more taxes and cutting permanent fund dividend checks to $1,000.
McConnell says she feels strongly that action needs to be taken shortly – as soon as the upcoming state Legislative session—to make a workable budget. While she doesn’t agree with every part of Walker’s plan, she is similarly reluctant to tap into state savings.
“It’s tempting to use all of our savings like in the constitutional budget reserve—but what I understand from that is that has a huge impact on the sustainability of our budget form the future,” she said. “Huge. If we cannot tap into that but instead use that for making our Alaskan budget sustainable that’s a much wiser use of that money than a short term fix.”
She says the state is at a turning point, and the presentation felt like a historical event.
“I feel like the time has come for Alaskans to be facing the fact that things will never be the same again,” McConnell said. “I’ve always felt like, ‘Oh the price of oil will come up.’ Or something else will happen. We always get rescued in the last minute. My understanding is that’s not going to happen this time. We don’t have enough oil going through the pipe anymore to save us.”
She urges Sitkans to weigh in on Walker’s budget plan with state legislators before they convene in January.
APRN’s Rachel Waldholz contributed to this report.