With Legislature At Impasse, One Alaskan Suggests A Kickstart

For weeks, the Alaska Legislature has been wrestling with how to cover its multi-billion-dollar budget deficit. Now one Juneau man has a modest proposal for them: Try crowdfunding? APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez has this story.

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For Geoff Kirsch, following the Alaska State Legislature has been like watching the last seasons of Lost. It’s confusing, and frustrating, but you just want to stick it out for the end — which, in this case, is the passage of the budget.

“That’s like their one job, and they haven’t done that,” says Kirsch.

Since the Legislature ended their regular session, they’ve been stuck on their spending bill. They’ve been at an impasse over tapping the state’s rainy day account, which requires a three-quarter vote, and lawmakers have been retreading the same ground in their public meetings, in their talking points, and — by most accounts — their negotiations with each other.

So, Kirsch wondered if Alaskans could take action into their own hands. A few days ago, he launched a campaign to cover the deficit through the website GoFundMe, where people can contribute to causes they like.

“If it works for Veronica Mars and Reading Rainbow, then it certainly might work for Alaska,” says Kirsch.

At $3 billion, the goal is a little higher than most campaigns.

“It comes out to like $4,000 per person that they would would have to contribute in order for the campaign to work,” says Kirsch.

It’s kind of like voluntary taxation. And given how popular the idea of taxation is in Alaska, it shouldn’t be too shocking that the campaign isn’t raking in cash. But it’s gone better than Kirsch has expected.

“So far, someone has contributed $50, and that wasn’t even me!”

Of course, the point is more to raise awareness of the political situation than to raise money.

Kirsch used to do work for Comedy Central, and still writes political satire. The description says the Legislature’s message to Alaskans has been “to go fund themselves,” and Kirsch encourages Alaskans to turn the budgetary shortfall into budgetary “shortfall-ade.” It’s obvious he had fun with the idea.

But as the husband to a state employee — whom, full disclosure, this reporter knows socially — Kirsch says the budget stalemate is serious. If an agreement is not reached by July 1, up to 15,000 state workers will be laid off.

“People are going to lose money, and people are going to lose health insurance,” says Kirsch. “There’s nothing funny about that.”

But then again, a lot of humor is rooted in tragedy anyway. So, Kirsch is going to take this fundraiser to its logical extreme.

“I really do think I am going to present a big, oversize novelty check to Gov. Walker, if he lets me do that,” says Kirsch. “I don’t know if I need to make an appointment, or if I can just show up with it.”

A spokesperson for the governor said he is “open to discussions on all forms of revenue,” but that they “need to check with their ethics attorneys about whether [they] could take the money.”

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agutierrez (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.209.1799 | About Alexandra

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