EDITOR, Daily News:
In our series of debates, my opponent, Leslie Becker, has referenced an article written by retired Anchorage banker Jim Crawford, https://mustreadalaska.com/alaska-is-not-broke/, which she proclaimed we should all read as we would discover billions in newly identified “savings” available to the state through its corporations and quasi-governmental organizations. Skeptical, but intrigued, I took a close read of the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report that Mr. Crawford cites.
Nearly all of these, “stashed government monies,” referenced in CAFR, are actually “capital assets.” For example, the University of Alaska system is not somehow hiding $1.8 billion. In fact, nearly all of their “assets” are the value of the university itself. On page 42, it shows they have $200 million in equipment, $1.1 billion in buildings, and nearly $300 million in "construction in process." Their actual cash assets after paying their current liabilities are less than $100 million. The only way to use that $1.8 billion to run government would be to somehow liquidate the university itself.
Similarly, the assets of the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. are a portfolio of real estate investments, as well as loans to developers/operators of public housing. The Alaska International Development and Export Authority also has a statewide business and economic development loan portfolio. AHFC has $400 million in cash and AIDEA has $500 million. These are the funds they have available to make loans for housing or economic development. It would be possible to spend down these funds, however it would mean they are no longer available for the agencies to enhance our economic development or create housing opportunities for Alaskans.
Mr. Crawford points to what the CAFR calls “nonmajor components," including tobacco settlement money that's restricted, the various assets of the Alaska Natural Gas Development Authority and Mental Health Trust, etc. Along the same lines, the state has a billion dollars in the Power Cost Equalization endowment, which makes basic residential electricity affordable in 193 communities. None of these assets are liquid. Redirecting these funds would be detrimental to our state’s infrastructure and growth.
My opponent has made a series of claims in recent weeks asserting that the Legislature has failed to adequately seek out the cuts needed to resolve our budget issues. If my opponent is embracing Mr. Crawford’s article, she is signaling that she would be willing to dissolve the state’s capital assets and undermine our agencies’ ability to serve Alaskans. If we're looking to liquidate and cannibalize our state, we could find enough cash to keep things going for one more year or two. But why would we do something so irresponsible? I urge District 36 to consider voting for the candidate who does the research and is committed to finding real solutions to our problems instead of sharing misleading and incomplete information.
REP. DAN ORTIZ
House District 36