18 November 2006

At what cost?

I am surprised as anyone that Lyda Green has apparently landed in the Senate President's seat. If anything, I would have thought it would be Gene Therriault who would reach out to the Democrats and form a coalition.

On the one hand, it's easy to see how this is a good deal for everyone involved. Lyda Green gets the chair she has always coveted and Democrats get a legitimate say over the legislation that flows through the committees. It's great that a rural lawmaker is co-chairing the Senate Finance committee, particularly if the price of oil stays low(er) and senators start thinking they need to cut spending. The anti-rural duo of Con Bunde and Gary Wilken are out of the majority, praise the Lord, and able to do less damage.

But what's the cost for this deal?

  • Lyda Green is Senate President. As the ADN editorial board pointed out the other day, she has been acting out of some curious beliefs about the Alaska constitution.
  • Bert Stedman is co-chair of the Senate Finance committee. With all due respect, I'm not sure this is the best choice. This is the guy who toed the party line on that horrendous property tax exemption for the Anchorage church that Ben Stevens wanted and forced it through. I've never sensed much gravitas or "with-it-ness" in Stedman, unlike Gary Wilken, in whom I sense marginally more.
One might say that if it puts straight-thinking Democrats in charge of the committees, that can justify almost any cost. It make sense that a former prosecutor - Hollis French - should chair the Judiciary Committee, not a car salesman - Ralph Seekins.

But what happens when the Democrats try to take a look at the Tier IV system for PERS and TRS? It's well-known they want to revise it and/or abolish it. But Stedman and Green are already on record as supporting the current system. With the huge rate increase, municipalities and school districts are not going to let this issue slip to the background next session so at some point this new majority is going to have to address the gaping divide between the two sides.

At least it'll make for an interesting system. I don't know that it lasts though.

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