Columns 2016

Seniors are not leaving Alaska… screw you Alaska Legislature!

If the noises emanating from Juneau are real, then we can only conclude that our legislators have it in for anyone with the audacity to be poor, needy, old or very young in Alaska. You are apparently only welcome if you meet their criteria for residency in this state. You need to be moderately young, healthy, educated, employed and in no need of any government assistance. And it probably wouldn’t hurt to be a Caucasian male or an oil company.

I’m one of those seniors who struggle each month to make ends meet so I can stay in this state. And I’m here to tell our legislators that I am not only not going to leave Alaska, I am going to stay here and vote in every election I can until I rid state government of most of them. Because this is my state as much, if not more than, it is yours. I came here well over forty years ago. I’ve been here so long, I remember paying state income taxes. You are just going to have to figure out how to work with my fellow seniors and me because you need us whether you realize it or not.

We may not be in the paid workforce anymore, but most of the nonprofits in this state that rely on volunteers would be decimated without us. We are their backbone. We have the time to devote to them and, in doing so, make this state a nicer place to live at no cost to taxpayers. From Bird TLC to Bean’s Cafe, volunteers keep the doors open and costs in check.

Seniors help their families by caring for grandchildren, helping out at school events, contributing to the family finances. Seniors possess the best historical view of this state and, as we have heard our whole lives, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Without the historical perspective we provide, this state might just end up in another financial boom and bust cycle. OK, even I admit it’s highly unlikely that anyone will talk our legislators out of that cycle, but trust me, we’ll be here to say we told you so.

When I hear that the Legislature is considering a continuance of its lawsuit against the expansion of Medicaid, it makes my blood boil. Not because of the mean spirited, Trump-like evilness that would deny sick people a chance to see a doctor. No, it makes my blood boil because to continue the lawsuit will cost money that these same legislators claim we don’t have to care for our elders. I’ve heard the argument that it’s only about $250,000 more to continue to pursue the lawsuit and saving that amount will hardly make a dent in the billion dollar budget gap. That argument is totally correct – up to a point. And that point is where that money could be used to supplement the income of many elderly Alaskans who depend on it. So if it’s just sitting they’re unused and the Legislature wants to find a purpose for it, give it to seniors and not to lawyers. Because, in case you haven’t noticed, you have lost this case every time you brought it in front of a judge.

And that’s another bone of contention some of us seniors have with the Legislature. They seem to think we’re dumb. They think we can’t see through their thinly veiled claims that they are pursuing this lawsuit out of some altruistic belief in the separation of government powers. The governor, as a judge already confirmed, has the right to do what he did. Legislators simply haven’t forgiven him for winning the election as an Independent and taking some of the power away from them and those who fund them. So please don’t take us for fools. We didn’t survive all these years in this state without insight and intelligence… or the ability to smell BS when it’s that steaming pile at our feet.

Let me again assure our legislators that most seniors never planned to leave Alaska. We still don’t.  It’s our home. But since some of you seem so intent on waving goodbye to us, I promise that while you’re waving goodbye, we’ll be waving back. We just may not be using all our fingers in our wave.