The 30th Alaska Legislature gaveled in yesterday.
The first Speaker of the House with Alaska Native heritage was sworn in, 58 years after statehood.
Despite our age, Alaska is facing a fiscal crisis of unprecedented scale, like crashing a Maserati after turning fifteen. Two years ago, the price of oil plummeted by half in less time than it takes to draw up a quarterly report. State revenue was gutted. We have a $3 billion dollar budget deficit: you could fire every employee in the state, shut down every public school, end Medica(id)re, and you still couldn't fill the gap.
Over the last two years, we've spent about $6 billion of our savings to balance our budget, pouring very, very expensive water into our leaky bucket. For every dollar Alaska spent from revenue last year, it spent two from savings. We have about one year before the account runs dry. There are a few other reserves of cash we could tap into, but deciding how will require a significant political compromise -- between an unusually conservative Republican Senate, a new majority-Democrat, bipartisan House, and an independent Governor.
Fourteen new legislators were sworn in yesterday, after what's been described in the news as a "wave of anti-incumbency" that swept many out. There were 55 office changes in the capitol building in the last week. There are only 60 legislators.
The legislative session is supposed to be ninety days. This was day one.