Budget veto override quest: Public officials organizing, objecting, stepping over the line


It’s not just university officials who are organizing to try to get veto overrides. And it’s not just the Supreme Court of Alaska that is lobbying for overrides of its budget cuts, using its official stationary.

Throughout government, officials are skimming from their publicly funded time, using their official titles, and deploying messages to the public on their government email lists to try to convince people to contact legislators to override Gov. Michael Dunleavy’s budget vetoes.

We offer just a few examples of this misuse of public resources:

Here’s a letter from Julie Cotterell begging students at the Kenai campus of the University of Alaska. Note that she continues to parrot the lie that the cut is 41 percent of the system’s current operating budget:

Julie Cotterell <[email protected]>
날짜: 19/7/4 오후 5:53 (GMT-09:00)
받은 사람:
제목: We Need Student Voices

Dear KPC Students,

I know you have been getting a slew of emails regarding the budget, but your access to diverse and quality education in Alaska is in jeopardy.  The governor has cut the University of Alaska (UA) system by $135 million, which is a 41% reduction of our current operating budget. This cut will be devastating to the university. There will be no choice but to close campuses and cut education programs. The legislature has until July 12th to override the governor’s veto which only leaves us a very short window to let our legislators know how important higher education in Alaska is. 
We need your help to save our education system by contacting your legislator and let them know how important the University of Alaska is to you.  Let them know how this will impact you, your family, and your state’s economy.
You may contact them by sending a 50-word message via POM, send a letter/postcard (KPC/UAA has privately funded postcards available), or give them a phone call.  I have attached a copy of the latest issue of the UAStrong newsletter with the legislators contact information. 
Thank you for your support of KPC and UA!

Julie Cotterell
Student Services Director
Kenai Peninsula College

Here’s part of a letter campaign that went out from Anchorage Public Library Director Mary Jo Torgerson, pictured above, who used her official title to ask Alaskans to fight the cuts. In it, she tries to make the cases that the 2,500 furloughed at the University — such as professors and other highly educated Alaskans — will need her library’s help to update their resumes and apply for jobs. It’s hard to imagine that university workers would need the Loussac Library’s help to accomplish such a task, but Torgerson gives it the old college try:

“2,500 staff at the University have already been furloughed and layoffs in government, nonprofit and private sectors are sure to come if the vetoes go through. The Library helps people update their resumes, apply for jobs and prepare for qualifying exams every day, and our weekly Job Labs at Loussac and Mountain View Libraries utilize community volunteers to help patrons through this process. We expect the need for this service to grow as a result of the cuts.

“Additionally cuts to the mental health programs, Municipal revenue sharing and public broadcasting will also have major negative impacts to our libraries and the people they serve, putting an even bigger burden on an already strained, under-funded resource,” Torgerson wrote.

[Read Mary Jo Torgerson’s entire plea to the community to fight the cuts here.]

But it wasn’t just the library’s budget Torgerson was advocating for — it was for a variety of programs that she, in her official capacity using official resources, described as essential, from school bond debt reimbursement to public broadcasting.

Add to that the writing professor in Anchorage who has leaned on her students to write their protestations (she gives them plenty of fodder, while allowing that some may have their own opinions).

[Read: University professor assigns writing students — protest the cuts, for credit]

The “#UA Strong” television ad that is playing everywhere in Alaska right now is fueled with money from the University of Alaska Foundation, which has not revealed itself as the source of this #UA Strong campaign. The foundation has spent another $40,000 on social media ads to implore people to help save the university’s funding, and another untold sum in yard signs and stickers. A back-of-the-napkin calculation indicates the University Foundation is spending at least $100,000 on lobbying for the veto overrides.

The Legislature will possibly gavel in on Monday and will have five days to override the governor’s final budget. But with half of the Legislature going to Juneau and the other half to Wasilla, it may be impossible for any of them to “gavel in.”

Wasilla special session is going to cost a bit more


  1. People’s Anchorage Public Library Director Mary Jo Torgerson should be summarily fired for unauthorized use of official position and resources.
    Since that won’t happen, one hopes Governor Dunleavy further cuts Anchorage’s revenue sharing by at least the amount of Peoples Librarian Mary Jo Torgerson’s salary and benefits.

  2. The unfolding train wreck over the University budget is a result of the University Regents’ and University Administration’s refusal to engage the Governor in any meaningful way to consolidate and restructure the University. Davies and Johnsen rejected all efforts; they were hard-over against any reductions from day one. They could have gone to the Governor and proposed $15 million in cuts and closure of two satellite campuses in each of the next three years and the Governor may have accepted that proposal. Now, instead of a multi-year step down they are looking at Armageddon. Great job, folks.

  3. Living tax-free and receiving nice PFDs is great so long as the State can afford it, but the music has finally stopped and now Alaskans are struggling to cope with their new (and long-predicted but ignored) economic reality. You all have a very special life up there. I know, because I lived it fully for over 30 years. You can keep it that way by tapping the marvelous thing called the Permanent Fund to keep the State budget afloat. Put on some income tax like there was pre-oil, reduce the PFD, reign in some of the State spending. And, use the rainy day fund a little more, now that it’s pouring. If I still lived there I would gladly agree to this, and view it as the cost of living in the magnificent place that Alaska is. From Outside, it sure looks like individual PFD greed is going to run the place into the ground. MRAers who demand a “full” PFD handout for doing nothing, really, and cheer for a Governor who wants to implement a scorched-earth Alaskan vision are beyond shameful, really, and can’t see the contradiction in their position. It’s so sad to see Alaskans, who used to feel like a special group living an adventure, pitted against one another for the sake of a lousy PFD. Trump really has reached deep down into the Alaskan psyche, and sabotaged it. Maybe some day your enlightenment will come.

    • Whidbey,

      What do you think of all the greedy state workers and UA employees who have ridden high on the hog all these years, why didn’t you include them in your rant against greedy no good Alaskans? I’m guessing you are collecting your AK state pension and spending it in another state, is that the case?

      The problem is the state funded jobs handout program known as UA is finally being brought to heel and those who have grown accustomed to the nanny state welfare system don’t want to face the reality and lose the easy money.

      • Steve O: is there something wrong with a senior who spent 30 years in Alaska who instead of putting up with the harsh winters chooses to live elsewhere and spend his hard earned retirement benefit someplace else. Before you discriminate against a senior citizen consider that you might someday be one yourself.

        • Nothing wrong with that at all, I’m not sure how you got that out of my comment either.

          The comment I responded to is from a person living out of state attacking my fellow Alaskans as greedy, while calling for taxing my fellow Alaskans so that tax could be given to a select group of people, simply because they’ve become accustomed to it. I have a very very big problem with outsiders meddling in my business and telling me I should surrender the hard earned spoils of my labor so that another can continue in a high paid job that isn’t needed.

        • Yes. It’s called carpet bagging. Some of us actually live here and our families (generations) live here. I’m sick of people who come here to take!

    • We’re a state with a government, not a government with a state. The Permanent Fund is ours, it was never meant to fund the government, and it’d be idiotic to start doing so. They’ll waste and squander it all, and then refuse to take any cuts in spending when it runs out, just like they’re doing now. Only then the deficit’s going to be even bigger than it is now.

      The state government needs to live within its means. I completely support Governor Dunleavy’s cuts. It’s why I voted for him.

    • We are second in the nation in per capita spending. We are spending money we do not have. Our government is bloated, especially with entitlement spending. I personally don’t have a problem with using permanent fund accounts for running ou government but not until responsible spending and a realistic budget is in place.

    • PFD or no PFD. This mess is WAY beyond that Whidbey the Dog. I personally am an “MRA’er”, not because I demand a full PFD “handout” for doing “nothing” as you suggest (I’m a born and raised 5th generation and am moving nowhere – this is my home forever), but because I like to be involved with sensible discussions. I enjoy both sides of the coin – both liberal and conservative thought and often enjoy sensible discussions with those that think a little differently than I do. However, you have created an interesting macrame, threading our current Governor – who hasn’t even been in office for a year, to a fiscal nightmare that has taken years to create, and tied it in the bow of Donald Trump. That is so cliche and AOC. The law needs to be changed if they want to calculate the PFD differently. The “government” just grabbing it never works. They just grab and grab and grab. The mess is the vast amount of spending this state has done over the years with no accountability. The Governor is trying to plug the hole.

  4. Thanks for the insightful comment. Sorry to disappoint, but I’m a guy who worked hard in the Alaska oilfields (in large part due to a good university education), saved, and invested. Well-funded universities can spawn innovation, create sustainable economic growth, and expand economies beyond resource-extractive activity. Just look at Stanford and Silicon Valley, MIT and Boston, and many other examples. Hope you have a good day.

    • Whitbey – both Stanford and MIT are private universities, not public universities. If you are trying to make a point of budget cuts to the public university system in Alaska, you may want to compare the UA to another public institution so it makes sense.

      By the way, both Stanford and MIT have much higher 4-year graduation rates for the entering freshmen classes than the University of Alaska.

      Nationwide, the estimates of the number of universities and colleges across the country that will go bankrupt and close is very high.

      The nationalization of the student loan program by the government made for easy money for universities – but there is no such thing as a free lunch – which many millennial students who racked up billions in debt collectively are now finding out.

    • So, you took advantage of what Alaska has to offer, and left.

      Oddly, now you want to offer your opinion on how things should be done.

      Well, here is the thing, you are part of the Alaska problem. For far too long people come, take advantage, and leave. Perhaps, once the dust settles from all this we will be rid of a few more like you, and have folks who really want to live here and be part of the solution.

  5. Isn’t it great to be told by a non-Alaskan that we should tax our livelihood to keep the liberals and their embedded constituency afloat? An income tax means this: YOU MUST PAY THE GOV’T FOR THE PRIVILEGE OF STAYING ALIVE AND KEEPING OTHERS ALIVE WHO DO NOT WANT TO WORK.

  6. For Peoples Student Services Director and Lobbyist (and what some consider pretentious twit) Julie Cotterell of Kenai Peninsula College:
    영어 음성은 여기
    English is spoken here.

  7. INSANE Democrat and government payrollees….GET OVER IT! YOU LOST! Alaskans voted for change……and you’re going to get change. Enjoy the Lower 48 weather and good luck with your next government job.

  8. “A government that robs Peter (Alaskans) to pay Paul (libs/dims/socialists) can always depend on the support of Paul”. George Bernard Shaw, mostly. Funny how people long ago could see the writing on the wall today. Must be something in the wind or water that’s still around today. Thank goodness Governor Dunleavy is driving, instead of ‘you know who’.

  9. Every election cycle school districts across the state spend tax money to lobby for additional tax money to fund their districts (usually pushing education bonds).

    It seems so inappropriate for taxpayer-funded employees to divert some of their taxpayer-funded operating budget and their employee time to purchase and provide advertisements seeking more money. This is especially inappropriate because you rarely see an opposing group providing a counter-argument and lobbying against this additional spending.

  10. This is great, I am happy to see that the state is United to support education and support rule of law.

  11. Such a curious contradiction…

    What I see here is a bunch of old white guys, sitting behind their computers and seething with rage against a government for which they actually pay nothing to support, and a University system that they were never motivated enough to attend.

    One could almost think that they didn’t quite get that State job they once applied for or finish the degree that they started at UA, and are now hostile and bitter as a result of their own failings.

    It’s so entertaining to watch Suzanne cast out her Conservative bait story after story, and to have it so eagerly devoured by her servile followers.

    • All the old White guys sitting around wishing they had state jobs???? Like praying for rain in the middle of the forest fire. Praying for sex on a deserted island. Having a state job …….
      so we can do what???? Twiddle our thumbs and pray for the next payday while we dream of getting tomorrow’s doctor’s appointment for free courtesy of the state. Dude………you got serious issues. Go call your mama!

    • Classic liberal approach. Bring race into the discussion, throw around insults and believe they sound intellectual, yet nothing was said at all. It is a tired played approach.

      I know, I was once a liberal, and practice much the same approach. But modern liberalism is like a nude beach. It sounds like a good idea until you get there.

      Sorry to disappoint I have a BA and and MBA.

    • A bunch of old black guys… a bunch of old Indian guys… a bunch of old Asian guys… a bunch of old Mexican guys…… How does that sound? You’re sick.

  12. Such a curious contradiction…

    What I see here is a bunch of old white guys, seething with rage against a government for which they actually pay nothing to support, and a University system that they were never motivated enough to attend.

    One could almost think that they didn’t quite get that State job they once applied for or finish that degree they started at UA, and are now hostile and bitter as a result of their own failings.

    It’s so entertaining to watch Suzanne cast out her Conservative bait story after story, and to have it so eagerly devoured by her servile followers.

    • How do you manage to see a person’s race by reading comments on an internet comment board? Some strange power you have there.

    • Spectator: what’s with double posts? Not sure if your government job covers dementia related difficulties. You should check. The rest of us here at MRAK comprehend well on the first try.

    • Another insulting, insinuating leftist that, most likely, isn’t an Alaskan. I don’t see any “old white guys” seething with rage. No demonstrations yet, no political pandering, no greed. Arguing only for what’s rightfully Alaskan, with mostly civil discourse. I see Alaskans standing up for what’s right, not the lib/leftist program of “gimme”. The “rage”, insults and insinuations seem to be coming from public employee “unionists”, “educators?” and people like this “spectator”, who are incensed because the socialist gravy train has run out of steam. Hooray for Governor Dunleavy!

    • Such a curious contradiction…
      What I see from your “comment” is a lonely millennial attempting to be a social justice warrior (terrorist) who has no clue where state government gets it’s money to operate on. Let me clue you in- operating money is provided from the sale of oil and mineral rights Alaska (the people, not government) owns. State government (employees) are managers of this pile of money for the owners (the people of Alaska). As to the state job- I applied and was passed over because I refused to join the state employee union. Ironically after a major virus attack, that same job opened up 3 more times; hoping that I’d apply. I don’t take sloppy seconds. I moved on. As to UA- looked into a degree but realized my extensive military training was being low-balled for credit by military hating democrats. No worries, 32 years of IT experience has kept me employed. UA’s elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about is their huge land grants they received at statehood. Need money UA? Start selling your land. In all of this, it’s entertaining watching an idiot in his mom’s basement with zero life experience tell the rest of us with smug disdain that we’re the ones with issues. Stay on your meds, we don’t need another loose cannon democrat.

  13. donna Arduin had this to say when first hired “.Summed up, that goal is straightforward: “Have predictability for dividends and those who rely on state money every year,” she said”
    funny people who actually perform work for their state funded hand out are all liberal socialist. However the people who get a check based on nothing more than zip code are real Alaskans. Personally I have never relied on.state money every year. Apparently some here do.

    • Leo,
      Many people who “perform work for their state funded hand out” and demand ever more are “liberal socialists”. A huge percentage of those people are “performing work” that is unnecessary, redundant, and politically associated, not productive. Why does Alaska have the highest per-capita rate for “government” in the nation? It’s nothing more than socialist/dims taking all they can get, plus, from Alaskans and demanding ever more. Most of those “people who get a check based on nothing more than a zip code” have been living in Alaska all or most of their lives. The PFD was recognized as a “dividend” to those “shareholders” (Alaskans) that have stuck it out through thick and thin (lots of ‘thin’ here) in Alaska. The PFD is not “state” money. It belongs to those “zip code Alaskan” shareholders in the State of Alaska, not the lib/dims who insist they need it to further prolong their unneeded/unfair/unwarranted programs that will drive Alaska into another socialist sewer if allowed to continue. Alaskans must stop this travesty now or, forever pay the price.

      • Say Ben, how about all those Valley people who came up here with their kids for those PFDs (remember Papa Pilgrim)? Must have been too thin for them down South, huh?

        • Say “Bill”, how about when royalties were flowing in based on $100/barrel and democrats were spending it on new social programs and expanding old ones like drunken sailors? You remember that? I do! Now the gravy train has come to a halt. Democrats (and some back stabbing republicans) are scaremongering with taxes taxes and more taxes, instead of being responsible. Why do you think the pilgrims were up here? The welfare office plays the numbers game. The more welfare cases they have, the bigger their budget is next year. HHS rarely audits or investigates their clients for fraud, therefore making it easy pickings. Naa.. Time to start cutting programs and laying off the extra employees that are not needed.

          • Well Herman, you forget that the Democrats haven’t controlled our Legislature for about 20 years and certainly not ever when oil was $100/barrel. Spending was a bit like drunken sailors but it was Republicans doing it-they did need the help of minority to get into that CBR but anything to avoid additional taxes, right??

  14. ben
    there is not a speck of reality in your post.Really a program with a one year residency requirement is about rewarding those who stuck it out through thick and thin?
    maybe you could point out all those useless state employees “performing work” that is unnecessary, redundant, and politically associated, not productive.
    Personally I like having my road plowed and my children educated.
    Alaska has the highest capita government employees due to population density and geography. If you know differently maybe you should post some facts, I find your lib dims comments childish divisive and make your arguments pointless. This site need an ignore function.

    • leo,
      Maybe you’re in need of a few facts. 1. The PFD is not a one year program. It takes two years to receive the first one and many newcomers don’t stay here that long. 2. Those “precious teachers” you like so much. State funded and nothing but leftist peddling propagandists, for the most part. Over paid and under educating. The State student population is shrinking and the “education” funding is insanely huge and constantly inflated for less and less education (union protected).. 3. Those snow plow drivers are the first ones laid off in any funding dispute because they can cause the most angst for citizens, instead of the ‘fluff workers’ that are making outrageous wages and benefits for little or no production (union protected). 4. The “geography” hasn’t changed since the ice age but the amount of State workers and their wages/benefits/retirements have skyrocketed, especially with State employee unions rearing their ugly heads. 5. Mega millions for subsidizing the AMHS, when Alaskans amount to about 30% of their passengers in the summer and disastrously low passenger numbers (near empty) in the winter, but still fully subsidized (union again).
      Maybe you’re right about the “ignore” function. Then, your BS could be ignored but I think you need an ‘education’ about Alaska. I really don’t think you are concerned at all about Alaska. Just your socialist cohorts. You must be a State employee/teacher (union again).
      Need I go on?

    • Ed, while you are correct that this site is predominantly conservative it’s only a few knuckle-draggers (like you) that think they can work over the Leos who show up here.
      You are the expert on your opinion but that hardly makes Leo’s thought process “fu*ked up.”

      • Bill Yanker, the nasty Lefty troll….do you have a job? Or do you hang in your mommy’s basement waiting for your next unemployment check? Or, maybe you are on disability and receive SS and pension. Or, you are a former state employee waiting downstairs for your PERS check. Whatever your sorry existence may be…..please feel free to move along somewhere else and take your fruit on a stick with you and keep chewing, or whatever it is you do to yourself when not on your mommy’s keyboard. Leave the grownups alone.

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