By GOV. MIKE DUNLEAVY
On Dec. 15 my administration fulfilled both our legal responsibility to present a balanced budget for the next fiscal year, as well as our moral responsibility to present a budget that meets the needs of Alaskans.
As it has been since I took office, the No. 1 priority reflected in this budget is public safety.
We are asking the Legislature for additional funds for 15 more State Troopers and 10 Village Public Safety Officers. We are also asking the Legislature for additional funds to implement the People First Initiative that my administration introduced on Dec. 14 alongside the stakeholders who helped create it and will be our partners to implement it.
We’ll seek a total of $24 million in funding above the current fiscal year to execute our public safety goals along with the tools law enforcement needs such as body cameras, fleet maintenance and replacement, and court system funds to resume jury trials suspended by the pandemic.
This budget demonstrates that we can both constrain government spending while focusing resources on its core responsibilities. Compared to the budget deficit of $1.6 billion that I inherited on Day One, this budget is not only balanced but is 7 percent lower than fiscal year 2019. This is the fourth consecutive budget with lower state spending than the previous administration.
We will not propose taxes. We will not spend from our savings accounts. We will not exceed the statutory limit on the draw from the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve.
We are doing all of this while proposing a 2022 Permanent Fund Dividend in line with my 50/50 plan that would total about $2,564 per eligible Alaskan, as well as the balance of the 2021 PFD according to the same formula that would provide an additional $1,250.
My goal has always been to put the biggest share possible of Alaska’s resource wealth in our citizens’ pockets, and to put the government on a diet.
This budget does both by limiting the government share of the Permanent Fund earnings to no more than half of the annual draw.
We can propose this from a position of strengthening fiscals and budget restraint. Among the 50 states, only Alaska and Oklahoma have been able to reduce state spending since the 2018 elections.
Thanks to better-than-forecast oil prices and production, we are on track to finish with a budget surplus for the first time since the 2012 fiscal year.
Alaskans expect their government to live within its means and live up to its responsibilities, and those are expectations I take seriously.
I also take seriously the rights of our state and Alaskans as individuals.
That’s why we’ve been on offense against federal overreach that attempts to restrict our ability to develop our resources or encroaches on our fundamental individual rights as Alaskans and Americans.
And we’re winning. Alaska joined a dozen other states to force the Biden administration to resume federal lease sales, and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority is now suing to enforce the legal leases we acquired at ANWR this past January.
But nowhere have we been more successful than our coalition with states around the nation to shut down President Biden’s unconstitutional vaccine mandates.
Alaska and fellow liberty-minded states have won injunctions stopping the implementation of vaccine mandates on employers, on health care workers, and on federal contractors.
Some have asked me to mandate masks or vaccines; others have asked me to ban mask or vaccine mandates. Under our state constitution I have no authority to do either thing, and no Alaskan should want any governor to have that kind of power.
What I do have is the power to defend every Alaskan’s rights to make their own choices and exercise their God-given rights that are laid out in our state and federal constitutions.
An old saw is that budgets reflect values. As the Declaration of Independence states, governments are formed to secure the rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
I can think of no greater honor than to present a budget that reflects those values and protects those rights for every Alaskan.
As we speak today, the State of Alaska is in good shape. Oil prices and production are up, the pension gap that was recently billions of dollars has been closed, the Permanent Fund is worth more than $83 billion, and state spending is lower than it was four years ago.
These have been a difficult past few years with a recession, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake, destructive wildfires, and a pandemic, but we still have much to be thankful for because we live in the greatest state in the greatest country on the planet.
To all Alaskans, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas, a happy holiday season and a prosperous New Year.
Mike Dunleavy is the 12th governor of Alaska.