The Binding Caucus Rule

Recently it has been brought to light that Alaska's House and Senate have been functioning under a binding caucus rule for years. What this means is if you, as a legislator, agree to be part of the majority caucus, you agree to vote YES to the final operating , capital and PFD appropriation bill which comes out of committees and is presented to the floor in the respective Houses. In essence, you are agreeing to accept a budget and PFD which you have no clue what the final product will look like. 

The two main arguments in favor of a Binding Caucus is that all legislators have ample input to the budgetary process while the respective budgets and PFD are being formed in various committees and that without a Binding Caucus we would have massive chaos which would make it impossible to pass a budget, and this is the only mandated action required by our State Constitution each year. 

To counter these arguments, both committees of Finance in the House and Senate have full jurisdiction over the final budget and both finance committees are stacked with legislators who agree to reflect leadership policy. Ultimately, there is little room for meaningful debate and influence. In actual practice, given this construct, there are only 6 legislators who actually form the budget for the entire state of Alaska. These are the Senate President, the Speaker of the House and the 4 finance Chairs. 

 

The argument that the budgetary process would result in chaos without a binding caucus agreement, one has to wonder how all other legislatures in America pass their respective state budgets without a binding caucus? 

 

Regarding the PFD, in recent years there has been very little discussion regarding the amount of the PFD to be paid even though there is a legal existing statute governing the payout which the majority of legislators conveniently  ignore. Any conversation regarding the PFD seems to be "what is left" mentality after all the special interests are paid. 

Ultimately, the binding caucus is a severe form of coercion and bribery used to maintain continuity with leadership's financial strategy. If any legislator who is a member of the majority caucus chooses to vote against the final budget or PFD on the legislative floors, they may be stripped of all their committee assignments,

stripped of substantial staff and can be forced to relocate to an office much smaller that the one they currently occupy. 

 

 Ultimately, I wholeheartedly believe that the specific reason why we have been in deficit spending for years, even during difficult financial times, can be directly attributed to the binding caucus rule.

 

Finally, the concentration of financial power in the hands of a select few undermines the foundation of equal representative government.  We deserve much better. We are Americans. We need to govern as Americans. Citizens entrust us to this principle and they should demand no less. 

 

My opponent is highly supportive of a binding caucus. It is designed for weak leaders. 

                                                                            ~ Stephen Duplantis  

 

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