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Friday, January 28, 2022

Alaska Lemming Caucus Over the Edge


This has been a difficult week for many Alaskans. So much uncertainty as 10,000 pink slips go to our friends and neighbors working for the state.

Fairbanks Sen. Pete Kelly argues they aren’t pink slips, because there’s an “if” in them, as in “You’re not laid off if a handful of senators get their poop together.” Of course, we know there’s no chance Pete and his collaborators will get their poop together. Instead of pink slips, people online are calling them “Pete slips.”

Our current legislative crisis is the handiwork of a small cabal of senators who refuse to compromise their misguided ideology. The Fumbling Five are True Believers, so convinced of their own righteousness they are willing to destroy our state to save it. These budget jihadis are Kelly, Charlie Huggins, Cathy Geissel, Mike Dunleavy and Anna MacKinnon. The rest of the Senate’s majority? Well, call them the Lemming Caucus.

Why the Lemmings haven’t bailed, I do not know. They have options.

Remember the days of the Senate’s “Bipartisan Working Group”? You only have to think back two years, to the time before the oil industry bought itself a much more partisan Legislature. The industry had only one concern, and it wanted a Legislature with only one guiding principle: sacrifice any and every state service, spend every penny of non-Permanent Fund savings, even jeopardize the dividends, all before raising a single dollar from the industry. That’s what the oil industry wanted, and that’s what it got.

The “Bipartisan Working Group” racked up a long list of accomplishments by abandoning partisan politics and embracing compromise to do what was best for every Alaskan, not just the campaign contributors of one party. For starters, they put a fair oil tax structure in place. The oil tax bill was contentious, but legislators worked together to do something that nowadays seems unimaginable: They honored the will of the people, bucked the special interests, and found a middle ground.

They also, as Sen. Johnny Ellis likes to say, went on a “savings spree,” setting aside $18 billion.

They invested in education — funding and forward-funding K-12. They focused on renewable energy across the state. They used the capital budget to upgrade and maintain roads, parks, fire stations, libraries and the like.

One of my political heroines is Lyda Green, former president of the Alaska Senate and a Republican. Ideologically, we don’t line up on much, but we do agree on how a democracy should function. For example, when ACES, the earlier oil tax legislation, was being hashed out in the Senate, Lyda didn’t like it. She made that known loud and clear. As Senate president, she could have stopped the bill from a floor vote, where she knew it would pass. Instead, she let democracy run its course and the bill became law.

And lucky for us she did.

As the Fumbling Five destroy the last vestiges of that bipartisanship, I note that if it weren’t for the Bipartisan Working Group’s oil tax bill, we’d be in even more desperate straits now than we are.

The Five are even prepared to risk the Permanent Fund Dividend in order to protect the oil industry from sharing any of the pain. Could that have personal consequences for every Alaskan? Here’s what Senate President and ConocoPhillips employee Kevin Meyer, R-Anchorage, said this week when asked if emptying the fund’s “earnings reserve” could put the annual dividend at risk:

Nobody can predict. No one has a crystal ball on what the stock market is going to do. And yes, (no dividend) is a risk that we would run. If we had 2-3 years of a down market then we may not have the money to pay the dividends, but then again, if we have that many years of a down market, should people expect to get a dividend?

Instead of the statesman we need running the Senate, we have small-minded ideologues, the kind of people who confuse bumper stickers with thoughtful public policies. As a result, education funding, 10,000-plus jobs, the protection of children and access to affordable health care for 40,000 Alaskans are all being sacrificed to ensure that $609 million in incentives for oil companies investment go untouched.

Bottom line? The Fumbling Five are steering the Senate, and the rest of us, straight at the precipice. They need to be fired.

And for God’s sake, Lemming Caucus, wake up and remember you’re in the Legislature to serve the long-term interests of the entire state. Better to be banished to the minority, than to continue to enable the radicals behind the wheel.


This article is cross-posted at the Alaska Dispatch News.



22 Responses to “Alaska Lemming Caucus Over the Edge”
  1. juneaudream says:

    Todays news headlines..suggest that Alaska has another dewy-eyed mother-to-be. A result perhaps of..unintended …Fffffff-locking? Birds..bless their hearts..always gather together..and thus..maybe..this newest member of..whats er names going to eventual..Newly Minted Saint..of ..them, er those, or..hmm..whatever….

  2. mike from iowa says:

    In the lege where wingnuts schemed
    Lobbyists and awl companies dreamed
    Of looting Permanent Fund Dividend
    Alaska’s good times at an end.

    And the lemmings I despise the most
    Took Alaska railroad to the coast
    To jump off the cliff in hell they’ll roast
    The day they killed Alaska.

    So buy,buy all the congressweasels you can
    Citizens United gives you that right it’s clearly out of hand
    Don’t let your conscience sway you while you’ve big bucks to spend
    Soon you’ll have all the personal Fund Dividend.

    I’ve met several great Alaskans through the internet
    But nary a wingnut I can tolerate,yet
    With all her wingnut faults and worse
    More elections in your favor should lift the curse,

    I could drone on and on,but hopefully you got the point. 🙂

  3. mike from iowa says:

    Alaska is Numero Uno in gun violence according to WSJ

    1. Alaska
    > 2013 firearm death rate: 19.6 per 100,000
    > Total firearm deaths 2004-2013: 1,256 (10th lowest)
    > Violent crime rate: 640.4 (the highest)
    > Permit required to buy handgun: No
    > Poverty rate: 9.3% (2nd lowest)

    There were roughly 20 firearm deaths per 100,000 residents in Alaska, nearly double the national rate. As in many other states with high gun-death rates, the vast majority of deaths were the result of suicide. Unlike most states on this list, however, Alaskan households were quite wealthy. A typical household earned $72,237, roughly $20,000 more than a typical household across the nation. Other types of crime were also more common in the state. In fact, Alaska had the highest violent crime rate in the country at more than 640 violent crimes per 100,000 residents.

    By Alexander Kent

    Read more: 10 States With the Most Gun Violence – 24/7 Wall St.
    Follow us: @247wallst on Twitter | 247wallst on Facebook

  4. mike from iowa says:

    Gotta say the lemmings portrayed look perxactly like I imagine lemmings should look, Hope none were injured for this post.Wingnuts,on the other hand,……

    • slipstream says:

      You will notice that all the lemmings are going to the right . . .

      • mike from iowa says:

        Didn’t notice any lemmings of color,either. Angry,white,no-mind lemmings. Stoopid,stoopid li’l lemmings.

  5. mike from iowa says:

    Alaska and Mississippi shrunk their GDP in 2014. Yup you be tied with Mississippi for last in the nation thanks to wingnut tomfoolery.

  6. AKblue says:

    I hope the same anger that caused a change in the makeup of the Anchorage assembly, voted in a moderate governor, and resoundingly defeated a teaparty fundamentalist mayoral candidate will drive people to vote these people out in 2016. From the letters to the editor, and the district meeting we had with our local Republican senator, people are furious. No one spoke in favor of the majority at that meeting.

  7. mike from iowa says:

    Okay,I apologize. It isn’t that simple simply because right wing nut jobs all over America are doing their damndest to keep liberal voters from being able to vote. But please,please,please do your part. get registered and get to the polls and vote. Ain’t no one gonna do it for you.

    • AKblue says:

      Mike, I’ve been in a liberal area of Anchorage for years. Then we got gerrymandered…..

    • Alaska Pi says:

      I’m part of the purply blue part of the state and we can no longer outvote ANC … dang.

  8. mike from iowa says:

    When life hands you a lemming(or an entire migration thereof),make lemming-ade. Rilly easy. Just go to the polls and vote the sonsabitches out of office!!!!

  9. juneaudream says:

    “the radicals behind the wheel”. Speaking from the ..watching..of a not that distant cousin..who is in the family tree..he, and all others of the religious fanatical groups..who see an apocalypse around each and every corner..they are Counting upon disaster! IF..they can..bring DOWN..the establishments..they fear.educationally, scientifically ..they benefit..because the ideas..which the majority of the world..sees as just ..’sick theatre’..will destroy everyone. THAT..they can..get behind. Better to cripple the earth..then bend to working with 2015 informations and forward looking plans for rebuilding this earth. That is very much the energy..the quiverfull groups, the domininists etc..have going for them..our way..or the highway to hell. The bumblers..are pretty much..walking around with a cottage cheese patty shape..all over their heads..and each little the result of a bit of misshapen religious rhetoric..that has been patted onto their braincases..over years, and years. They cannot..get out from under it. You want the..Zombie friends IS IT!

  10. mike from iowa says:

    The natural resources of Alaska belong to you,citizens. Why do you allow wingnuts to give away your resources?Don’t you care about your children’s futures?

    • Mike D says:

      As with many states in the nation, Alaska is predominantly conservative. That means even the smallest local election swings conservative. The mantra is always the same: social issues, reducing the size of government, freedom, guns, religion, etc. Conservatives typically have an all-in philosophy. Most don’t pick and choose issues. To do otherwise is to compromise, and, as Cathy Giessel points out, compromise is unacceptable. The purity of the vision must remain. In other words, “I am right and you must accept my position. I will not change.” Many conservative positions are sensible to liberals, but conservatives stop short of offering policies. They offer grand ideas, but rarely deliver. They cut taxes, but offer nothing to recapture revenue. They want to privatize, but no jobs materialize. They want fiscal responsibility, but never have a plan to get there. They court the wealthy, but the wealthy spend their money buying elections rather than creating jobs.

      As a liberal, I know the finger points back at me. Aren’t liberals just tax and spend individuals? No, not all. I don’t believe in spending money unnecessarily. I do believe there are those who need a safety net. That’s reality. What I haven’t seen from this state is an economic vision for the future. Oh, sure, lots of oil and gas talk and fishing, but no economic plan for attracting industry and business to the state. This liberal is not anti-oil or gas. However, I am pro economic development that envisions an Alaskan dependent on more than fossil fuels.

      Do I think things will change any time soon? No. Do I think things can change? Yes. But not until people who refuse to compromise hurt enough to realize things must change.

  11. Elizabeth says:

    As long as the majority of our elected reps are adhering to the ALEC catechism, we have no expectation of any real bipartisan action. One has only to read the public oratory of elected officials in Alaska and other states (eg, Montana, Kansas, and Missouri) to see that they’re all praying from the same volume. On second thought, that might be “preying”.

    • Beaglemom says:

      Isn’t it amazing how Republicans, at every level of government, show more allegiance to their ALEC and Grover Norquist pledges than they do to their oaths to support and uphold the Constitution.

  12. Zyxomma says:

    If this is what it takes to show Alaskans that the only proper people to elect to any seats in government are those who care about the people on whose behalf they’re governing, so be it. Sorry, Alaskans, but you voted them in.

    • Mike D says:

      I seriously doubt if “this” is what it will take to convince a majority of Alaskans to vote otherwise. Ideological purists never see their positions and actions as responsible for negative outcomes. For them the solution will be more politicians like the ones Shannyn decries in the article.

    • Mo says:

      Sorry, Alaskans, but you voted them in.

      Zyx, that’s victim blaming. Dems are a minority in this state, thanks to the influx of redneck Republicans during the pipeline years. We’re now an oil-igarchy. Breaking the grip of the powerful isn’t just a matter of strolling to the polls every couple of years.