Special Session & Public Safety

I hope this message finds you and your loved ones well.

This weekend, I will be returning to Juneau to attend another special session. There we will be considering two bills that the governor has placed before us: SB54, a bill to fix some of the issues found in the major criminal justice reform bill SB91, and a yet-to-be named payroll tax bill.

First, my thoughts on SB54: I am extremely concerned about the increases in some crimes around Anchorage, and I have been listening to law enforcement, prosecutors, other experts, and my constituents to find out what is happening in our community and what can be done to help. What I’ve heard is that an economy in recession, a burgeoning opioid epidemic, reduced budgets for troopers, prosecutors and the courts, and some impacts from SB91 (not enough deterrence for some crimes, and insufficient funding and poor timing for some crime reduction programs) are likely to blame for the increases in crime. Whatever the causes, I am committed to finding solutions that keep our neighborhoods and Alaskans safe, and that deal with crime at its root, which includes treatment, strong supervision for people on probation and parole, and stricter sentences in some cases. No bill is perfect, but SB54 addresses some of my main concerns (penalties for first-time class C felonies, repeated low-level thefts, and violations of conditions of release), and I hope that more solutions will come out as we work through the legislative process.

Reducing crime and increasing the safety and security of our neighbors is yet another reason why we need a comprehensive fiscal plan. Public safety costs money. I dislike taxes, but I’d rather pay some tax than be robbed in my home or have my car stolen. We can’t cut our way to safe and healthy communities.

That being said, I don’t like the governor’s proposed payroll tax. It hits middle and working-class people harder than it does high income earners, and its regressive nature harms the economy more than a progressive tax would. In any event, I don’t believe this tax has much chance of passing the Senate since the Senate Majority has taken the position that reductions to the Permanent Fund dividend are the only new source of revenue they are interested in.

As I head to Juneau, and while I’m there, I’d like to hear from you. Please reach out to me and my office at any time. Hearing from you helps me better represent you.

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