THE ONLY OUTBURST FROM THE AUDIENCE WAS CLAPPING
The latest community budget discussion took place in the governor’s hometown.
Gov. Michael Dunleavy, having traveled from Juneau to Nome, Anchorage, and Fairbanks, came to the Mat-Su Valley today and met with about 150 residents, most of whom were friendly to his plan to bring spending down and restore the Permanent Fund dividend to its traditional formula.
At the Mat-Su Resort, Dunleavy and some of his cabinet members laid out Alaska’s fiscal problem (a $1.6 billion deficit) and went through some of the possible solutions: Dipping into savings would drain the Earnings Reserve Account in just a few years. Taxing people would not cover the deficit unless the tax was $11,000 or more per working couple — and that would drive working people out of the state. And taking the Permanent Fund dividend out of the hands of Alaskans isn’t fair to the low-income families and rural Alaska.
The solution, he said, is to bring spending down to what it was before it ballooned after 2006. A growth rate of 15 percent of government spending is what got Alaska in this fix, and cutting spending will help stabilize things, so long as his three constitutional amendments pass to control government growth in the future.
Security was tight at the Mat-Su Resort, with five uniformed Troopers and two of the governor’s security detail keeping a watchful eye, after some protesters in Fairbanks had begun to charge the stage the day before. The venue also provided private security for the event. Protestors — and there was just a handful of them — were kept at the entrance to the property and not allowed within shouting distance of the building itself. A few supporters were also seen at the entrance to provide a message supportive of the governor.
During the evening, a few of the questions submitted by attendees were from opponents to the governor’s plan, or from those with a bone to pick about Americans for Prosperity’s hosting the event. But unlike the events that took place in other communities, there was no angry outbursts in this conservative stronghold.
In fact, as in Fairbanks, the governor and his cabinet received a standing ovation at the end of the evening.
In every community, Dunleavy has been given red pens by citizens, and his visit to Mat-Su was no different in that regard; the very last question of the evening was “Governor do you have a red pen?” The crowd cheered. Dunleavy acquired a few more red pens.
The road show is not over — many more of these discussions are planned and rumor has it the governor will be all over Southeast Alaska next week, and has presentations planned for Anchorage and Wasilla.