Now that the legislative session has – finally! – ended, TongassDemocrats.com asked our Southeast delegation how things went.
This week, we share the responses we received from Rep. Justin Parish (D – District 34). If you would like more information about Rep. Parish, you can visit his official page at the Alaska State Legislature, his website at the Alaska House Majority Coalition, or his Facebook page.
What do you see as wins this year for Democrats and other progressives?
This year was a rough one. One of the things that really encourages me is seeing more grassroots activity around important issues like health care.
The House came up with what looked like a solid plan for the State’s budget, but – no surprise – the Senate majority hated it. Can you help us understand the State’s fiscal plan as it exists right now?
Right now Alaska does NOT have a fiscal plan. We are moving steadily towards the cliff. The Senate has proposed to slow our approach by steadily drawing down the permanent fund. On the current trajectory we could see the dividend end completely and a slow depletion of the Fund. The fact is that eliminating the PFD completely is about the same, for the state, as capping the PFD and having an income tax. I believe that the end game for many members of the Senate includes a dramatic reduction in state services and the complete elimination of the PFD.
What do you see as priority work for yourself between now and next session?
I need to serve my community where it most needs support. At present Juneau is experiencing economic anxiety and a surge in drug use and property crime. I hope to clarify the situation for our residents and connect them with the tools they need to affect change.
The 2016 election activated a lot of people in politics, many for the first time. Is there anything that people can do to improve the chances of advancing a progressive agenda in next spring’s legislative session?
Absolutely! Talk with your friends and neighbors about the issues that are important to you! Talk with your legislators and assembly people and neighborhood association members. Get involved in a campaign for a cause or for a person. Serve on an appointed committee or in an elected office on the state or municipal level! Read, talk, learn, share, repeat! Because of our small population, any engaged citizen can have an outsized impact in Alaskan politics.
Last, what do you want people to know right now about your plan for Alaska’s future?
I want you to know that Alaska future is up to all of us. All of us have an oar in the water. We’ve been heading towards the rocks for years. Now we’re starting to hit them. If we are to make a turn and stabilize our course, we have to do it now. We need every Alaskan.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with us, Justin!
The views in this piece are those of the author. They are not official positions of TongassDemocrats.com or the Tongass Democrats.