Legislative attempts to address increasing crime rates, the State budget, and voting to cap the Permanent Fund Dividend payment to Alaskans for the second time, were some of the topics District 13 (Chugiak/Birchwood) Rep. Dan Saddler welcomed talking about recently in an exclusive interview with The Echo News. All legislators will soon be heading back to Juneau for Gov. Bill Walker’s 4th Special Session during this, the 30th Session of the Alaska Legislature.
Buckle up, Kids, we are in for a ride.
The special session begins October 23 at 11 a.m. at the capitol. Discussed will be, first: “SB 54 – Crime and sentencing.” Second: “An act or acts enacting a tax on wages and net earnings from self-employment…”
We will see if establishment Republicans, like Rep. Saddler, will be rolled again. That’s been the story since the house is now run by Democrats.
When Republicans were in the majority during the 29th Legislature (2015-2016) Saddler served as Vice Chair of the House Finance Committee; Chair of the House Health & Social Services (Finance Subcommittee), and Chair of the House Law (Finance Subcommittee). Saddler was also a member of the House Armed Services Committee and served as a member of the House Conference Committee on SB 196 (having to do with the State’s Power Cost Equalization to subsidize living in the bush.)
But, but, but, blowback from the passage of SB 91 earlier this year created the political need to meet now; so the governor asks: why not use this opportunity to find a way to tax Alaskans, too?
“Representatives are simply representing the desires of their constituents, as they should, and there is not a general agreement in Alaska,” Saddler explained. “Some folks say we should tax those who have, (in order) to benefit those who have not. Others say we should all take the hit totally. So we have reached an impasse; I’m not going to support an income tax, the people of my district don’t want it. Bryce Edgmon’s people want to ‘tax those rich people in the city.’ So we’re doing our job, but it takes time to determine what we want to do.”
A rural Democrat, Rep. Edgmon is House Speaker.
It will take courage to buck the majority AND the governor. What elected legislators say through clenched teeth when they are home in their districts, and what they do when they are in our backwater capital in Southeast Alaska, might be hard to correlate, but actions can be verified. I know how it works from 20 years tracking these phenomena as a resident of Juneau. A former journalist himself, Rep. Saddler also knows this dynamic well.
The crime bill problem started with SB 91, which Rep. Saddler voted for.
He explains: “SB91 was an effort by the legislature to look at the resources we have–financial resources–and find ways to not spend irresponsibly. We have just gone through the drill of building the $350 million Goose Creek Prison, and realizing the recidivism rates—66 percent of people going back to jail within three years of their release—the revolving door that is not working; at great cost, it is not working.”
At the end of the last session, in which Saddler was vice-chair of the budget committee, SB 91 transcended from several committees. “I wasn’t on those committees, so it was kind of new to me,” he said. “I supported that bill with reservations. It now looks like there are places where there is evidence we should go back and fix things.”
A work in progress.
Alaska crime rates were rising before SB 91, and the causes of crime rates increasing may be more related to our economic downturn and the epidemic of opioid abuse. The fix is hopefully SB 54: An Act relating to crime and criminal law; relating to violation of condition of release; relating to sex trafficking; relating to sentencing; relating to imprisonment; relating to parole; relating to probation; relating to driving without a license; relating to the pretrial services program; and providing for an effective date.
SB 91 began as a 21-page omnibus bill that even McGruff the Crime Dog could love. Now everybody is kicking it.
“SB 54 is essential. It should have been addressed months ago,” said Saddler. “The title of SB 54 is broad enough that almost anything that was addressed in SB 91, in my opinion, can also be addressed in SB 54. It is sponsored by John Coghill in the Senate—as was SB 91. But the politics are so strong that it is difficult to anticipate what is going to happen.”
Some are saying cut it out root and branch. Saddler says it might be repairable.
So explain your vote on capping the PFD…
“The vote on the budget required us to agree to a capital budget. We had to avail ourselves to the 9-to-1 match the Federal Government offers. So we put up $100 million, and they put up $900 million to maintain our roads, build ports, airports and all the stuff for our transportation infrastructure,” he explained. “It is difficult to take any one vote in isolation—especially in the budget—so we did compromise” to pass the capital budget. “In the operating budget we had to avoid a government shutdown, to avoid the negative impact on Alaskans, and we had to compromise on that,” Saddler continued. “When it came to a vote on the capital budget the Republicans in the house were responsible to compromise and vote for that budget. As part of that the Democrats set us up to cut half of the dividend the first time; the governor had vetoed half of the dividend payment the first time, and given the fact we have more than $4 billion in outgo (expenses) with about $1.7 billion of income, the question can be legitimately asked: “What is the function of government? Is it to provide services or is it to provide money for people?”
Saddler admits his answer to that question may impact his chances for re-election.
Representative Dan Saddler
State Capitol Room 428
Juneau AK, 99801
12641 Old Glenn Highway Suite 201
Eagle River AK, 99577
Residency in Alaska:
Juneau, 1979-80 (summers)
Eagle River, 1992-present
Children: Danny, Peggy, Don, Sam
B.A. Journalism, Miami University, 1983
M.A. Journalism, Ohio State University, 1987
Other Political and Government Positions:
Legislative Aide, Alaska House of Representatives, 3 years
Legislative Aide, Alaska State Senate, 2 years
House Majority Press Secretary, 2 years
Deputy Press Secretary, Office of the Governor, 3 years
Special Assistant, Department of Natural Resources, 1 year
Deputy Director, Governor’s Office of Boards and Commissions, 3 years
Republican Party District 18 Chairman, 6 years
Business and Professional Positions:
Former board member, Alaska Press Club
Former member, Society of Professional Journalists
Service Organizations and Community Involvement:
Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce; National Rifle Association; Aircraft Owners and Pilots’ Association; Alaska Airmen’s Association; Air Force Association; Association of U.S. Army; Anchorage Republican Women’s Club; Governor’s Annual Picnic committee; Anchorage Folk Festival board; Juneau Folk Festival
Family, flying, hiking, songwriting and performing, American history.
- Alternate House Health & Social Services
- Member House Corrections(Fin Sub)
- Member House Public Safety(Fin Sub)
- Member House Military & Veterans’ Affairs
- Member House Military & Veterans’ Affairs(Fin Sub)
- Member House Community & Regional Affairs
For Sponsored Bills
Editor: An earlier version of this article stated that Rep. Saddler served District 14. We have corrected this error and apologize for any confusion it may have caused.