Dunleavy is making the hard decisions

Ann Brown



Although it is not unusual for political adversaries to call each other “Chicken Little,” Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s opponents calling his budget “a manufactured crisis” should be forced to eat crow. After all, let’s not forget that former Gov. Bill Walker referred to the state deficit as “the gravest fiscal crisis in history.”

Gov. Dunleavy is not shying away from making hard, unpopular decisions, which require sacrifices from all Alaskans. Correspondingly, he is being criticized as “anti-worker and anti-Alaskan,” and his budget as “a disaster for Alaska.”

But is that fair criticism? I do not think it is.

Gov. Walker was praised for taking a “holistic approach” to budgeting, mainly through the capping of Permanent Fund dividend payments, the institution of new taxes and accepting the Democrats’ $200 million increase to government spending in fiscal 2019.

By contrast, Gov. Dunleavy’s proposed budget attempts serious reforms to government spending. What he calls “honest budgeting” is largely based on the simple concept of spending within our means.

If Gov. Walker’s fiscal crisis was so bad that he felt entitled to 1.5% of Alaskans’ overall income, it stands to reason that the shortfall might equally require some cuts. And, sadly for the past administration’s acolytes, such an income tax would not fill the gap.

Here’s a fact opponents of Gov. Dunleavy’s budget perhaps do not want highlighted: Alaska is ranked second out of all 50 states in the highest welfare spending per capita (New York is No. 1). That’s more than progressive California, poor Mississippi and high-taxing Massachusetts.

Here’s another fact: Alaska is ranked dead last among all 50 states in fourth-grade literacy. Alaska, however, was ranked squarely among the top five states nationally for the highest amount spent on education per student. Some argue that “pooling” health benefits among the school districts would help solve the ridiculous cost of education, but that is a term that means “government-run health care” to those who can understand progressive-speak. Further, as reported by KTOO, none of the schools mentioned said they planned to spend a proposed $20 million in cuts on employee health care benefits.

How about a third fact: The University of Alaska Anchorage frantically pushes current students to call legislators to protect its funding. Yet it lost accreditation for its School of Education because it couldn’t be bothered to fix its data correction practices. This was despite multiple warnings over the two-year accreditation period. This leads to the question: What does the university do with its funds if it can’t even respond to those evaluating its accreditation?

While the elite class quakes at the possibility of losing control over its inefficient fiefdoms, perhaps we can all take a step back and review the findings: Overspending as much as the State has does not seem to be reducing economic dependency or improving educational achievements.

Rather than continuing to waste funds, let’s allow Gov. Dunleavy to try it his way. The governor wants to spend what money we have more efficiently, while accounting for assured cost increases in the future. If we do not get our spending under control, the government will forever be turning to the pocketbooks of Alaskans, hand out expectantly.

Gov. Dunleavy’s budget eliminates duplicative programs, prevents additional savings from being frittered away, limits public servant salaries, reduces government-approved travel and accounts for the projected increase in spending due to inflation.

If his opponents were honest with Alaskans (or even with themselves), they’d know that his approach is warranted.

Ann Brown is the vice president of the Alaska Policy Forum. She is a retired attorney in Anchorage, where she moved after living 30 years in Fairbanks.


  1. Go for it, “Gov. Dunleavy” and remember that is why we voted you in. To bring reality of spending and government to the forefront. Go Dunleavy, go!!!

  2. Let’s be Honest the Special Interest and Unions want nothing more but to reach in the pocket of Alaskans and continue to fund their lavash wishes. This state needs to pass a Right to Work Law and break up the monopoly they have on this state.

    • If you are going to bag on unions then bag on the public sector unions. They are sucking the tax payers dry. My husband is in a private sector union that doesn’t live off of tax payers.

        • Just because something isn’t called a “tax” doesn’t mean that it isn’t an actual tax. Check out your phone bill, there’s an Alaska Universal Service Fund Surcharge, E911 Surcharge, Network Access Fee, and retailers also get a Regulatory Cost Charges. How about alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco? The fuel tax (cars, planes, boats, anything that uses gas). Employment Security Tax. Vehicle Rental Tax. Various fishery taxes. Electric utilities.
          Corporate taxes are amongst the highest in the nation.
          Those are just the state taxes. You can always go to http://www.tax.alaska.gov/ to see the whole list of taxes, more than what I just listed here.

  3. I would like to see some specifics from Ann Brown regarding which programs to cut. How would she reduce spending in K12? How would she make the UA more efficient? Which welfare programs would she reduce/cut? Specifics matter.

    • Ann Brown is a closet liberal having run interference for Jennifer Johnston providing Rep. Johnston political cover within the Republican Party until now. Ann Brown does not support Governor Dunleavey’s conservative policies. She is aligned with those Represenatives that joined the opposition “Party” at the detriment of the Alaskan Republican Party in opposition to our conservative Governor.


      • The problem is that when everyone is a “closet liberal” in a Democracy you lose elections. I must be a closet liberal too, even though I’m not the one sending out woke missives about “rape culture” like our ever so “conservative” Governor.

  4. As a current State of Alaska Department of Commerce, Division of Economic Development employee I couldn’t agree more with the author’s view of ” the elite class quakes at the possibility of losing control over its inefficient fiefdoms”
    Inefficiency, is only scratching the surface. Unaccountable senior management, no S.O.P.’s, lack of a true Training and Development, and a
    new Director and Commissioner that choose to live in Anchorage and appear in Juneau infrequently, never interacting with the serfs in the office

  5. This is not a problem unique to Alaska, though part of why I left. Increased costs, but only increased benefits if you were in the right positions…moving the burden to those with less resources trying to fund things there wasn’t enough for with what you had (unless you privatized something, but that doesn’t necessarily make it better or remove a cost.) But we put those type of people there. We said they were qualified or they ran unopposed so we said, let’s see where it goes…often just in cycles, never improving. Just be careful…tell someone they can’t have it and they’ll oust you to prove you wrong whether it’s a better system or not. I mean how often do the legislators fulfill the people’s 90 day sessions and we just keep sending the same people there to do the job…

  6. Ann, I appreciate your perspective, but “the problem” is far more complicated, nuanced, and pandemic than your column suggests. We need to change the entire Alaska government culture, and the way our government does business, and do it in a way that respects everyone. Gov. Dunleavy is just getting a good start. I used to be worried about how much income I receive – it is less than the average State or Anchorage city worker. Yeah, we live in an expensive State, but… Public Service should be just that and not an avenue to a cush job with great income and benefits. That said, even if we lay off every State worker, we will not balance our budget. Let’s try filling the oil pipeline. Sean Parnell’s “roads to resources” was a great idea, but we must come to a mutual and mutually beneficial agreement on how the State interacts with Sovereign Tribes before significant development will take place in the Bush. We must not let the courts decide for us.

  7. How about we stop the welfare to oil companies that have billion dollar profits and yet still require the state to pay them money to do their job. Let them leave any number of smaller companies will fall over themselves to take their place

  8. To the Governor!!1 Let’s have the cuts you asked for! and, don’t sign a thing until the cuts are there. Each and every program and department, and entity…

  9. Another fact: Both Governor Dunleavey and Commissioner Johnson were Alaska School District Superintendents during this abysmal decline in education. Where did they call for privatization and reduced budgets in those roles as an answer to those failings?


    Where have they signed off on coughing up their fat government pensions as some of the highest paid government sector workers in the entire State system? Do tell.

  10. Here is a specific idea – privatize all commercial fishing loans, so instead of the state being the de facto bank with subprime rates for commercial fisheries, let them get loans at market rates from banks and credit unions, like every other type of business in Alaska.

    By providing cheaper than market rate loans, the only thing that gets driven up is the cost of commercial fishing permits. Why allow this industry to the exclusion of other industries get cheap money? It only allows businesses in the seafood industry to run up unstable debt levels, and remain an inefficient industry.

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