By DAN FAGAN
If you live in Republican Sen. Josh Revak’s district, you likely received a flyer from him during his last campaign cycle boasting about the deep cuts he and his fellow legislators have made to the state budget in recent years.
Revak and others claimed to cut the budget a whopping 40% since 2013.
Former Senate President Cathy Giessel famously used the 40% budget cut figure to justify her raiding of the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve Account to keep special interests happy. Giessel also used the 40% number as evidence there’s no more room for cutting in state government.
Readers will remember Giessel opposed most of Mike Dunleavy’s first year budget cuts back when the governor was a budget hawk. He no longer is.
The media and liberal bloggers were more than happy to play along and repeat the 40% budget cut claim.
But a report released Monday by the think tank Alaska Policy Forum shows the 40% budget cut figure is nothing more than a myth.
“Alaska Policy Forum’s examination of total state spending and the cost of state government over the years finds that politicians have used smoke and mirrors to mislead Alaskans concerning budget cuts and spending,” the report reads.
The AFP report found the 40 percent figure compares the 2013 budget to the 2020 budget. The 2013 budget had a much larger capital budget than the 2020 budget. Capital budgets are typically considered low hanging fruit in the world of budget cutting. They generally pay for projects and infrastructure.
It is the operating and supplemental budgets that are close to impossible to cut. Cutting operating budgets means fewer state employees. Public employee union bosses don’t like that one bit.
“While Alaska has made strides to reduce state spending by cutting the capital budget, the size and expense of state government have changed very little,” the APF report reads.
The AFP reports the 2013 budget compared to current Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s most recent budget represents only an 18.8% reduction.
AFP Executive Director Bethany Marcum says when you factor in the amount of money it takes to run the state every year, the budget reduction is only 8.8% compared to 2013.
You might be surprised to know the 8.8% in the reduction in the cost of state government from 2013 to 2020 did not come at the hands of the current occupant of the governor’s mansion.
In fact, Dunleavy has ever so slightly increased the cost of state government since elected even though he ran as a budget cutting governor.
If you were to blame anyone for the current morbid obesity of Alaska’s state government, it would have to be the queen of conservatives, Sarah Palin, and former Gov. Sean Parnell.
Palin gave us the largest tax increase in Alaska’s history in ACES, the “progressive” oil tax system. She then quit, which gave Parnell the opportunity to take the tidal wave of cash pouring into state coffers and spend, spend, spend.
Parnell spent close to a total of $7 billion on his capital budgets. The spending brought in tens of billions of federal matching dollars. Anyone care to offer a guess of what we got for those tens of billions in capital expenditures? My guess is much of it went toward studies. Or is there a slew of newly constructed roads and bridges I’m unaware of?
Parnell’s third budget was $3 billion larger than his first.
The spending during the Parnell years was so out of control he approved a plan to fly rural Alaskans into Anchorage for free if they promised to attend the then declining and sparsely attended Great Alaska Shootout basketball tournament.
The word “no” was not often heard in Juneau after ACES passed and the dollars flowed.
The Alaska Policy Forum report proves little has changed when it comes to politicians standing up to the Juneau Swamp and doing something about the state’s Jabba-the-Hutt-sized government.
Now when politicians claim they’ve reduced government by 40% and then say there’s nothing more to cut, you know the rest of the story.
Dan Fagan hosts the number one rated morning drive radio show on Newsradio 650 KENI.