By ERIC FORRER
Gov. Mike Dunleavy has said that our State needs everybody to say yes to everything. For the governor’s purposes, “everything” can be defined as all industrial development.
There seems to be a vision in the Governor’smind of a transformation from whatever Alaska was in our fond memories to a sort of northern Detroit of heavy equipment, an expanding road network, mines with attendant effluent dams, and petroleum and gas production writ large.
However, the governor is walking a pathstrewn with a lot of ‘nos.’ Consider the $70 million cuts over three years vetoed from the university in 2019. Or how about $13 million vetoed from the ferry budget in 2020, amid other reductions. And let us not forget $87 million vetoed from legislatively approved temporary help for the public schools in 2023.
The governor has also given a large ‘no’ to bears by sanctioning the killing of nearly 100 Browns shot by ADF&G in a single cull. Add to that the ‘no’ to wolves with half or more of the population killed in a single year on Prince of Wales Island based on biologically bogus rational supposedly toincrease the deer population.
Add to this list an existential ‘no’ to salmon(a bellwether species for the state), which are in trouble statewide with close toextinction numbers on the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers, and a resounding “yes”to the big trawler interests based in Seattle that continue to decimate our salmon stocks and degrade the Bering Sea biosphere.
So, we find the governor’s leadership highway paved with “nos,” not just “yeses.”Our governor justifies “no” increases for funding fisheries research, “no” to wildlife scientific studies, “no” to our university, public transportation, basic level elementary school funding, and other public needs as “unsustainable increases.” He then demandsthat we Alaskans must learn to “live within our means,” an admonishment that does not extend to corporate interests inside and Outside Alaska.
But are the governor’s vetoes and downsizing of services across the spectrum really about living within our means? Does a governor who routinely proposes “unsupportable increases” in the PFD checks and calls for deficit spending really care about a ‘balanced’ budget?
In a recent article by Nathaniel Hertz in the Nov. 30th edition of the Anchorage Daily News, Governor Dunleavy is reported to be planning to reinstate something called “well head gas production tax credits.”
Credits is the key word in this concept.
Legislation creating these kinds of credits goes back as far as Governor Frank Murkowski. These old credits were finally extinguished because of their immense cost to the public treasury (approaching eight billion dollars), and because of the credits did not increaseproduction.
Governors Bill Walker and Dunleavy both promoted passage of HB 331, legislation that would have authorized one billion dollars in bond debt to pay off these old outstanding tax production credits, even though the payments were not debt or in default.
In a unanimous vote in the Alaska Supreme Court, HB 331 was declared unconstitutional in its entirety.
Had the Alaska Supreme Court not struck down the scheme to incur debt to pay off the cash-for-credit scheme, the State of Alaska would still be paying off hundreds of millions in principal and interest for a program that did not work.
The governor is seemingly prepared to slip the cost of a renewed tax credit program under the umbrella of “living within our means.”
The implicit message here is obvious. Alaskans must make do with a double handful of ‘nos.’ But businesses involvedin exploring for gas and oil in our statedeserve a break.
There is deep, abiding hypocrisy here. The oil companies, embedded in the laissez-faire market mantra which dismisses the usefulness of government and enthrones financial and commodity markets as acontrolling force, have at no time in their existence been able to function and profit without a public fund subsidy. These subsidies have been made available by politicians at all times at every level, from infrastructure funding to loan guarantees, to price supports, ad infinitum. It’s all in the category of public risk, private profit.
Gov. Dunleavy is in lockstep with this crowd, sheltered from the needs of the people of the state under his “available resources” umbrella, and doling out state general funds in volume to private industry and its insatiable demands.
Why the average Alaskan puts up with this kind of ruinous economic policy is a mystery.
Eric Forrer has lived in Alaska for over 60 years and is a retired commercial contractor. He still fishes commercially and served as a Regent for the University of Alaska.