By MIKE DUNLEAVY
Over the past four years, Alaska’s political class has focused on addressing the state’s budget deficit, and rightly so. When the price of oil crashed, the state found itself facing a multi-billion-dollar deficit.
But as our campaign hears from everyday Alaskans across this great land, a deficit more corrosive to the health of our republic is emerging: a deficit of trust. Alaskans are leery of politicians who say one thing and do another.
When Bill Walker ran for office in 2014, he said he had “no intention” of cutting Permanent Fund dividend checks.
Not long after his inauguration, however, he was singing a different tune. In the span of three years, his administration denied every man, woman and child in Alaska over $3,700 each.
The governor’s dividend-cut policy isn’t wrong solely because it’s bad for the economy – paying Alaskans a full dividend would provide a tremendous boost to Alaska, which suffers from anemic growth, high unemployment, and outmigration. It’s wrong because it severed trust between the people and their representatives.
The Alaska Permanent Fund and dividend program were established by the people in 1976 and 1982, respectively. The people were wise enough then to know politicians would be tempted to spend away the oil boom and so constitutionally protected some of the revenue and created the dividend program to protect the fund.
Since 1982, the dividend program has worked as intended, protecting the fund while benefitting Alaskan families. Then suddenly – after more than three decades – the deal changed. Walker unilaterally cut dividends at the worst possible time and without direct input from the people.
If given the opportunity to serve, mending the trust deficit created by Walker will be my top priority. It’s no secret that I am the only candidate in this race who supports protecting the traditional PFD formula. But I also believe the people of Alaska should settle this issue directly, which is why I support going to the people for an advisory vote before any changes are considered to the PFD – at minimum – and ultimately believe the people should have the opportunity to vote on protecting the PFD in the state constitution.
In our system of government, the people are sovereign, and no change to the Permanent Fund would long survive without their direct consent. Such a vote would restore trust between the people and government officials, and the outcome would be respected on all sides. If the people were wise enough to establish the Permanent Fund and a spending limit, then there’s no reason to doubt their wisdom in dealing with today’s challenges.
Despite the failed leadership of the current governor on this and many other issues, he wants another four years, and is vying with lifelong politician Mark Begich for the chance to accelerate a tax and spend agenda. In every town hall, forum and debate, Walker and Begich are in vigorous agreement. They say we must cut the PFD to save it, that new taxes are inevitable and state spending has been cut to the bone. They’re convinced that wise decision makers in government know how to spend your money better than you do.
But Alaskans aren’t buying it. We know the PFD isn’t broken and state government spends roughly three times the national average per person. That’s why Alaskans support more reductions to state spending, oppose new taxes and know the enemy of the budget isn’t the PFD – it’s out-of-control spending. Unless we get spending under control, government will consume the other half of Alaskans’ PFDs, and no amount of new taxes will be enough. That’s the path my opponents will take us down. I hope to lead us down a different path.
If the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior, then Alaskans can be confident I will remain true to my word. I voted on behalf of my constituents against a budget that didn’t pay Alaskans a full dividend, because I knew there was a better way. Alaska is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and enough financial assets to get us through this challenge. With the right leadership and policies in place, we can resolve the budget deficit without PFD cuts and new taxes. If we control state spending and maintain a competitive, stable business climate, Alaska will grow its way out of the deficit.
Elections are about trust. With your help, together we can restore trust in our government and ensure everyday Alaskans have a voice in the big decisions ahead.
Mike Dunleavy is a candidate for governor of Alaska. A public school teacher, principal and superintendent for more than two decades in Koyuk, Kotzebue, and the Mat-Su Valley, Dunleavy served on the Mat-Su Borough School Board and in the Alaska State Senate.
This is a wonderful message from our future Governor.
I thought it would be helpful to provide some detail in the comments for Alaskans who care to find real answers. Governor Walker has expanded rule-making and enabled the empire builders throughout state government to go unchecked. He has cut back on services while increasing wasteful administrative functions and bureaucratic rule making. Most of his cuts have been to services, service workers, and capital which is only increasing our deferred spending. This needs to be reversed and we need to live within our means. The bureaucracy needs to be cut significantly. We need to invest in our state infrastructure, educate our children, and keep our people safe. Instead we are prioritizing a bloated bureaucracy that just makes living and working in Alaska more difficult.
For a reality check consider other similar states and what they spend to govern. Utah and Idaho, for example, are very similar to Alaska. They are big Western resource states with about half their population located in close proximity to their urban areas. Utah’s total state budget is $4492 per capita and Idaho’s budget is $4720 per capita. Alaska’s total budget is $14,290. That’s about 3X what these other states spend on pretty much the same services!
Drilling a little deeper we see that the Federally funded portion of those those other states’ budgets is about the same as Alaska’s. Using state funds, Alaska spends $9,839 per capita, while Utah and Idaho spend about $3000 per capita. Still a 3X multiplier! Despite spending 3 times per capita on state government, Alaska ranks #28 in healthcare and #40 of all the states in Education. Utah is #3 in Education and #10 in Healthcare.
Now . . . we know that some of the funds Alaska spends are restricted or funded by user fees, and others have matching funds, so the real discretionary spending is the unrestricted general fund budget (UGF). That is the portion of the budget that needs to be addressed most urgently. This year’s UGF is $4.3 Billion, about $5800 per capita. If Alaska just brought our UGF spending down to $3000 per capita we’d still be spending far more per person than these other states. Alaskans should insist on this at the very least. That $4.3 Billion should go down to $2.2 Billion before we start talking about increasing the revenues. My suggestion is to establish a proposed budget of $3.3 Billion (UGF), then a plan to cut that budget down to $2.2 Billion within 4 years. After that we can talk about an income tax if we’re still draining the savings. If we make these deep cuts to our bloated bureaucracy in every agency we’ll have money to reinvest and stimulate growth.
Those who disagree with cuts would cry out about education and Healthcare. Again, look at these states as an example. Utah spends 38% of their budget, that’s $1706 per capita on education, and Idaho spends 32% or $1510 per capita. Alaska meanwhile spends 20.4%, which works out to $2915 per capita. $2200 of that is UGF. Yes, Alaska is an expensive place to do business but it’s not THAT much more expensive. We’re spending twice as much on education, getting about the same amount of federal $$, and ranking far below these other places. We can’t just keep throwing money at it. We need accountability. All Alaskan parents have experienced the seemingly endless red tape and bureaucracy in dealing with our schools. There are significant issues with entitlements, with the infrastructure and cost of rural schools and with equitable cost sharing in urban areas, but these issues simply must be addressed if we are to pass on to our children a healthy and prosperous future.
In my experience as a manager in government I observed significant bureaucratic waste in all of the agencies I interacted with. Walker is growing the wasteful bureaucracy and not spending money on more teachers, more police, and management efficiencies. He funds every agency to engage in liberal rule making that makes business, teaching and policing less efficient. Each new rule expands the bureaucracy and reduces the services government can provide.
Across the board cuts will not work anymore. We can reduce this waste, but only by examining each agency and program’s mission, eliminating waste and duplication, and cutting the bureaucracy down to only what is necessary to accomplish the core missions. Some programs are duplicative or unneeded, and those should be eliminated. Our objective should be to spend only what is needed and a good starting point for a budget can be established by examining other state’s programs and what they spend to accomplish the same missions.
Sources for more information:
(note, link has comparisons of 2016 numbers, but 2017 links are provided by each state)
Go Mike Dunleavy for Alaska Governor 2018!
Governor Dunleavy, you have a big swamp to drain…
but a lot of people to help you do it.
Get rid of the big spenders in Juneau and stand behind Mike Dunleavy the next great Governor of Alaska
The irony of this say-nothing opinion piece is…. sadly hilarious. “A Deficit of Trust” you say Mr. Dunleavy while casting aspersions on your opponents. People trusted your to complete your term in the Senate… but you quit. People trusted you to be a fiscal conservative, but you collected pockets full of per diem as you helped spend millions of dollars of public funds on capitol projects destined for failure. People trusted that you would articulate a fiscal plan while running for office, but you have not. People trust that you will appear at candidate forums as promised, but you have not. People expect that you will repay your debts, but you do not. Trust you say? Funny guy.
Not sure what that means…
Nobody here “trusted” Dunleavy to do or not do these things.
Dunleavy made no contract with anybody to do or not do these things.
Articulating a fiscal plan “while running for office” is something only a fact-free Democrat, obsessed with fulfilling the Democrats’ primary mission, Getting Money, would do.
One can’t fix state finances and management practices until one knows just how screwed up they are and how they got that way in the first place.
And yes, the party of Hillary Clinton, the party of destroying America’s borders, language, and culture, –and its disciples– bloody well deserve all the “aspersions” that creative minds choose to pile on them.
And yes, the party of Hillary Clinton who want to mortgage Alaska’s Permanent Fund on a gas line to “sell” gas to Communist China, and who think productive, patriotic Alaskans are dumb enough to buy into that BS, have no idea what “aspersions” await them.
Mr./Ms. Morrigan – We’ll have to agree to disagree on our assessments of Mr. Dunleavy.
IMO, when one takes an oath of office as a public elected official and bails in a Palinesque way before one’s term is up, it breaks a trust and expectation that the official will complete his/her term. This is called “quitting”. One who quits is a “quitter.”
When one agrees to appear at a forum or a debate but is a “no show”, how can you trust that person to do what he says he’ll do?
Re “fixing state finances.” Before former Senator Dunleavy quit he co-chaired the Senate Finance Committee and had ample time to apprise and attempt to “fix” things. If you watched public hearings of his committee during his tenure over the Finance Committee you’d know that he was in way over his head, unable to grasp some fundamental concepts of finance, funding, and budgets.
Your comments have a hard partisan tone. Perhaps I’m wrong, but you sound like an ardent member of Trump’s Republican Party. FYI, I’m a lifelong independent who has never joined any political party. Too bad we have lost much of the civility between individuals and partisans that used to be commonplace.
Unless something changes in this three man gubernatorial race it looks like Dunleavy “The Quitter” will be our next governor. If so, four years from now most Alaskans will rue the day it came to be. One can always hope Dunleavy will be found out for who he really is before November 6…. someone not to be trusted.
Senator Dunleavy was NEVER co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee. Tell the truth!
If trust issues or artificially obsessive compulsion preclude confidence in Mr. Dunleavey, then the two other choices blessed by labor unions, the baby butchery and parts industry, Alaska’s lobbyists, and the Communist Chinese will inspire trust in the most jaded of customers.
Ironic that civility should be among the first casualties of nascent civil war, no?
Mr. Dunleavy, when you take office, please, please, please, drain the swamp. There are too many hold-overs from past administrations. Check out one of Art Chance’s past columns. He was spot on. There are some appointees that have been hanging on nearly 10 years. They keep resigning at the next administration and keep getting retained. I think out of laziness of the administration. Some are hold-overs from the Parnell administration! Some older! Some should have gone out with the Katkus debacle and for some reason are Klingons. They are in all departments. Some have the populous buffaloed into believing they are doing good things – and some of them are, but it’s time for some new blood. They aren’t Jesus – it’s time to give someone else an opportunity. Please, right down to the directors! Take them out and start fresh! You have got to bleach the mold or it will grow back!
Mr. Boyle – Thanks for catching my misstatement. He was not co-chair. Dunleavy was one of the five Senate Finance Committee majority members in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 …. and then he quit the Senate. He was an uninformed and ineffective Finance Committee member for five years running…. and then he quit.
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