Within the Alaska Legislature there are members who are known for their expertise in certain areas of policy. For example, Matt Claman is a recognized expert within the Capitol on criminal justice policy and is someone that other members will go to on that specific area of public policy. When it comes to the state operating budget, the expert within the halls of the legislature is long- time Sitka Senator Bert Stedman. He is respected on both sides of the aisle within the Senate and the House for his expertise on all matters relating to that budget. Senator Stedman’s knowledge of operating budget comes from two sources, the first is professional and the second relates to his tenure as a senator. His professional background is that of an accountant who runs his own investment management company in Sitka. The second has to do with the fact that from the moment that Senator Stedman became a member of the Senate in 2003 he concerned himself with everything that had to do with the operating budget. He then became the co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee in 2007 when the Senate Bipartisan Working Group formed. As co-chair, he was in charge of the operating budget and was in this position from 2007 until 2013. During that time he developed a reputation as someone who could work well with anyone who was willing to work well with him. During his time as co-chair he lead the charge to save billions of dollars- over $15 Billion-, so when the price of oil fell our future legislators would have money saved that they could then use to avert a crisis. His statesmanship and leadership is the reason that during these last four years the state was able to weather the storm of the financial crisis that developed when the price of oil dropped. During the legislative session this year and the following special sessions he came under attack from members of the Mat-Su delegation for his steady leadership style.
Despite these attacks, it is important for people who value rational discourse and good public policy to support him and his leadership on the finance committee. Whether he remains where he is will be based on what happens with the outcome of next year’s elections as a number of his colleagues will be facing the voters in their districts. If some of his colleagues are defeated in their primaries by more radical people, then we will not have Senator Stedman in leadership. Protecting the future of this state means standing with those members of the Senate Majority that have supported him and Senator von Imhof during their time in leadership in the Senate. These next four years are going to be especially important for him and Senator Natasha von Imhof in terms of building up legislative and public support for the Percent of Market Value Approach to the state budget.
Senator Stedman recognizes that if he and his colleagues don’t get more support for POMV, then it will not be placed in the state constitution and he knows that his Valley colleagues will continue to sell the Governors’ agenda on the PFD. These are without question hard times we are living in, but if the state had to go through a fiscal crisis we have the right man on the finance committee. The statesmanship of Senator Stedman is a model for other legislators to study as he has set an example that others should follow. We need more like him in Juneau. I for one will be doing all I can to stand with him in the battle to save my state from Valley radicalism and getting more allies for Senator Stedman elected is a mission I am happy to take on.