Update: 6 hours ago Published: 7 hours ago
Over the past two years, Alaskans have faced a storm of challenges: the COVID-19 pandemic, ensuing business shutdowns, record unemployment, costly weather disasters, and devastating declines in salmon runs and other fish stocks. Now, as we move past the pandemic, inflation and housing prices have skyrocketed and fuel prices have already hit $5 a gallon in our state.
Alaskans need help. That’s why the House Majority Coalition included a $1,300 energy relief check in its budget, paid in addition to the permanent fund’s annual dividend.
The price of Alaska North Slope crude hit $116.60 a barrel on Monday, a level not seen since 2013. The state expects to receive more than $1.8 billion more in oil tax revenue than originally planned in December, a portion of which will fund the Energy Relief Checks.
These checks provide relief to people suffering from high fuel prices, especially those in rural Alaska, where home heating fuel prices are expected to double or triple. They provide a boost to our workforce, whose wages have remained stagnant as inflation hit 7.9%, the highest rate since 1982. They provide much-needed financial support to Alaskans who don’t were ineligible for federal assistance during the pandemic but still saw reduced hours or closures at work.
This energy relief is part of a comprehensive budget package to be presented later this week. He is true to the House Coalition’s commitment to fiscal responsibility by providing support to Alaskans now while keeping an eye on the future.
Our proposal strikes this careful balance by introducing energy relief checks while dedicating hundreds of millions to rebuilding our economies for years when oil prices fall again. It funds essential services that Alaskans rely on, including our public safety, pioneer homes, sea route and road maintenance. It is investing heavily for the first time in years in the next generation of Alaskans by increasing education funding, replenishing the higher education account and funding K-12 education. It prioritizes infrastructure investment through a strong capital budget funded by a smart mix of federal money and matching state dollars.
It achieves all of this while protecting the Permanent Fund from an overdraft.
Alaskans know the seesaw nature of oil prices. The money available now thanks to this current boom and the influx of federal cash will not last forever. However, if we do it right, we can ensure Alaskans have the resources we need to weather the current storm, continue to grow the Permanent Fund, invest in Alaska’s future, and rebuild our economies.
Rep. Louise Studes, R-Kodiak; Rep. Bryce Edgmon, I—Dillingham; Representative Neal Foster, D-Nome; Representative Kelly Merrick, R-Eagle River; Representative Chris Tuck, D-Anchor; and Representative Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, are the leading members of the Alaska House Coalition in the Alaska State Legislature.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a wide range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for review, email comment(at)dna.com. Send submissions under 200 words to [email protected] Where click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and comments here.