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:
Dear KPC Students,
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.
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).
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.”