Now it's Dunleavy's turn - Must Read Alaska
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Now it’s Dunleavy’s turn

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The weekend belonged to the House Majority, with hearings around the state on the governor’s proposed budget.

This week belongs to the actual fiscal plan to bring the state budget in line with actual revenues, and to close the $1.6 billion gap this year. The governor is out and about, with a heavy schedule of appearances on the budget and the three constitutional amendments he wants to send to voters — amendments he says will stabilize things going forward:  locking in the Permanent Fund dividend formula so it’s no longer politicized, putting in place a spending cap, and making any income tax subject to a vote of the people.

On Must Read Alaska’s Facebook page on Monday, over 1,100 people took part in 23-hour poll on the budget.

The result? 93 percent of respondents said they leaned toward budget cuts rather than an income tax and reduced Permanent Fund dividend.

As with the House Finance Committee hearings and the governor’s forums this week, a Facebook poll is self-selecting and not representative of the public at large.

House hearings have leaned heavily toward income taxes and reduced dividends, except in the Mat-Su Valley, which supported a reduced budget. In other areas of the state, union members and teachers dominated the testimony.

[Read: Mat-Su testifies: Cut the budget]

[Read: Juneau spoke: Tax us, cut our PFD]


Gov. Michael Dunleavy is taking the unusual step of taking his case to the people during the legislative session, when normally governors tend to let the Legislature have the spotlight.

But this year is like no other. This governor wants to roll back spending. Under four years of Gov. Bill Walker, the State has gone through $14 billion in savings to hold government services at levels the state could not actually afford. Walker added more than 40,000 Alaskans to the Medicaid rolls and hired climate change experts and “change agents.” He cut Alaskans’ dividends.

This week, the Dunleavy budget, his 10-year fiscal plan, and three alternatives that the governor is using for comparison, will be vetted.

Governor Dunleavy has proposed a budget based on five core tenets:

  • Expenditures cannot exceed existing revenues
  • Focus on core functions that impact most Alaskans;
  • Maintain and protect our financial reserves;
  • Minimize the financial burden on Alaskan families; and
  • The budget must be sustainable, predictable, and affordable.

“This plan presents a vision of a smaller State government, with more money in the pockets of Alaskans, planting the seeds for economic growth and providing higher levels of freedom and individual liberty. This is accomplished by reducing State spending and making statutory and constitutional adjustments to prevent future excessive growth in government spending at the expense of the people,” the plan says.

[Read: The Dunleavy 10-year fiscal plan and alternate scenarios]

Dunleavy started in Kenai, with a forum that included his budget director, commissioner of Revenue and others in his cabinet. He was applauded as he walked into the room at the Cannery Lodge. A few protesters were outside, and a few were inside, but they were respectful. Everywhere he goes people are giving him red pens, to indicate their hopes for vetoes of the House budget.

Today, the governor heads to Anchorage, where he’ll face heavy union resistance at his evening forum at the 49th State Brewery.


March 26 – Anchorage

Associated General Contractors

10am – 11am: Talk of Alaska with Lori Townsend – Alaska Public Media Network
More Information

Alaska Support Industry Alliance – Anchorage Chapter Event

4pm: The Dave Stieren Show – KFQD
Listen Live

5pm: The Mike Porcaro Show – 650 KENI
Listen Live

6pm – 8pm: 49th State Brewing Company (Free and open to the public event with AFP-Alaska and Alaska Policy Forum)
Register Online *

March 27 – Nome

4:30pm – 6:30pm: Old St. Joe’s Civic Center (Free and open to the public event with AFP-Alaska and Alaska Policy Forum)
Register Online *

March 28 – Fairbanks  

8am – 9am: Carlson Center – Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce “Understanding Alaska’s Fiscal Situation”
More information **

6pm – 8pm: Westmark Hotel (Free and open to the public event with AFP-Alaska and Alaska Policy Forum)
Register Online *

March 29 – Fairbanks & Mat-Su

7am – 8am: Alaska Miners Association

6pm – 8pm:  Everett’s Mat-Su Resort (Free and open to the public event with AFP-Alaska and Alaska Policy Forum)
Register Online *

According to those traveling with him, Dunleavy is getting great response, with people shouting “Stand strong, Mike!” as he passes through airports and before he goes into interviews and meetings. And then there’s this thing with the red pens — he’s being given them wherever he goes.

That’s not the message that came through during the House Finance Committee hearings, however.

House Majority members have made it clear that they do not intend to pass the governor’s budget, but are eventually going to offer some version of former Gov. Bill Walker’s budget to the Senate.

But so far, the only plan on the table is the Dunleavy plan, and it would impact all Alaskans because it calls for a huge chunk out of spending on everything from education to Medicaid to public broadcasting.

House Speaker Bryce Edgmon summed up his opposition while on KTOO last week, saying that he doesn’t understand why Dunleavy keeps talking about his budget, since Edgmon doesn’t like it.

“The governor’s emphasis … continues to be on large reductions and on a full PFD, as well as backfilling the PFDs, which, you know, I don’t think that’s where the Legislature is in terms of making decisions on the upcoming budget,” he told KTOO.


Protesters are expected in the Anchorage meeting this evening. The AFL-CIO received a quickly granted parade permit and has several special interest groups joining union members in what is predicted to be a rowdy and disruptive gathering outside the forum at the 49th Street Brewery. Security will probably be heightened inside the building as threats have been made on Facebook.

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Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • I’m all for reasonable cuts, and I understand that they will be painful but necessary. I just wanted to draw your attention, though, to an article that ranked University of Alaska Fairbanks number ten in small universities. We have some assets worth preserving that will be meaningful to the future of our state, and I hope that in the fervor to win the day, there is still thoughtful examination and strategic deliberation. We need to surgically remove waste without damaging the valuable institution that is UAF.

    • Certainly most recipients of state money have some value. The problem is that those running these organizations simply refuse to do that hard work of making changes so that they (and our state) can weather this financial storm. Every group that has gone before the finance committee says the same thing. They need full funding. They can’t make it work with less. In fact, many of them refuse to. Jim Johnson, when asked how much less the University could manage with, had the audacity to say he was not there to negotiate. That’s the very attitude that got our state where it is today. For the life of me, I can’t understand why people don’t think the government should have to balance their budgets like individuals do. I guess that’s just the American way; look at credit card, student loan, and the National Debt. We must stop the madness!!

  • “…and to close the $1.6 billion gap this year”.
    One hopes discussions include the idea of dissolving the Alaska Municipal League, returning AML’s $600M “Investment Pool” to the State’s Treasury,
    or returning AML’s $600M “Investment Pool”, prorated, to AML members; and reducing State revenue sharing to AML members by $600M going forward, since AML members have demonstrated they can thrive while stashing $600M, unused, in their collective piggy bank.
    That’s Alaska’s $1.6B deficit reduced to $1B.

    • Morrigan, and get this, the AML employees are on the Alaska PERS retirement program!! Hogwash, it is supposedly a nonprofit, not a govt agency. Or is it?

      • There are an amazing number of entities that are PERS participants, and which shouldn’t be. Participation should be limited to the State and political subdivisions of the State.

  • Morrigan


    Their main goal is to trick folks in to providing ALL members the life they want using the oxygen of others.!

  • “… a Facebook poll is self-selecting and not representative of the public at large.” That pretty much sums it up.

  • Went to the roadshow where protesters outnumbered the participants. Another PR disaster for Governor Babcock’s communications team.

  • Got a ticket to see the show. The Governor and his staff put out a dispassionate discussion about the math. The Ferry system hasn’t paid for itself in a couple of decades and ridership is down. 4th grade reading is rated at the 50th state level. Medicaid exploded under Walker. Don’t know how to argue with the math of the budget. The clown show outside had the usual suspects. Someone banged on the outside door a few times and 2 people rolled out a banner. Yep, that pretty much changed my mind. They served some snacks that were good. I wonder where they got the chicken wings and cookies.

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