What's ahead in the next decade? As a practical matter, we assume tomorrow will look pretty much like today. Until tomorrow shocks us into a new kind of thinking. In a recent speech to the Resource Development Council, Dr. Scott Goldsmith explored the economic changes coming to Alaska, and those that have already arrived.
"For the first time in 22 years the (Alaska) economy did not grow this year and we will end it with fewer jobs than we had in January," Dr. Goldsmith noted. He also expects the Alaska economy to contract next year, with tourism facing the most obvious impediments to growth.
Government plays a major role in the economy: One-third of our dollars come from the federal government. But what can government, whether federal or state, do to create jobs and encourage diversification of the economy?
Many would say "lower taxes," but taxes on mining and tourism already are modest. Altering the oil-tax regime yet again presents dangers to make state lawmakers gulp. Would a tax reduction create more jobs soon? Maybe. Would it immediately diminish state revenue? Absolutely.
The proposed gas line illustrates all too vividly the limits of government intervention. For more than 30 years, governors, senators and state lawmakers have pursued a gas line. Men and women in union halls have watched their hair turn gray waiting for those jobs. Some have begun cashing retirement checks. Perhaps former Gov. Sarah Palin's AGIA process will deliver a pipeline. The skeptics say no, and some lawmakers voted for the law while sharing that skepticism.
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