Drawing upon centuries of collective wisdom and Alaska experience, the Pioneers of Alaska share their opinion of the state's budget crisis - in today's post.

pioneers logoA group of long-term Alaskans are deeply troubled by the budget crisis and what it may portend for the future of the state. The Pioneers of Alaska, a fraternal organization founded a century ago in Nome “to promote the best interests of Alaska,” recently surveyed its members about the revenue shortfall . Their responses draw upon centuries of collective history and experience (to be a member, you must have been a resident for at least twenty years.)

All respondents to the survey of the Pioneers 4,500 members expressed concern about the deficit, and a majority believes that the solution should involve both spending cuts and new revenue. Nearly three quarters of respondents are opposed to making deep cuts to essential public services, including education, public safety, healthcare, and road maintenance.

The Pioneers who responded to the survey are like other Alaskans in that they have a variety of opinions about the best plan to close the budget gap. Eighty percent said that they support using a portion of the excess earnings from the Permanent Fund to support public services and programs during the crisis while protecting dividends. Most of these respondents support capping the dividend to avoid deep cuts to services, and 65 percent support limiting the PFD to $1,000 or less.

The survey also found that 80 percent of respondents are in favor of limiting oil development tax credits.

The idea of new statewide taxes is a tough sell for Alaskans, but more than half of the Pioneers who responded to the survey indicated that they would support either a new state personal income tax or a state sales tax to close the budget gap. Respondents who support new taxes see this as an emergency solution, and would want taxes to be structured to expire when the state economy recovers.

In a recent letter to legislators summarizing the survey results, Pioneers of Alaska Grand President Fred Thorsteinson wrote that his membership understands that “difficult decisions must be made.” He urged the Legislature to “take positive actions to reduce the budget deficit rather than rely on the Constitutional Budget Reserve to provide a short term solution.”