Wednesday, September 27, 2023
HomePoliticsOpposition groups react to budget: 'State of despair'

Opposition groups react to budget: ‘State of despair’


The governor’s budget had no sooner been released, when 30 union members, led in song by AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami, swarmed the Third Floor of the Capitol, in front of the Governor’s Office, singing the old Pete Seeger union organizing song:

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Oh workers can you stand it?
Oh tell me how you can.
Will you be a lousy scab
Or will you be a man?

Which side are you on, boys, which side are you on?

Watch the AFL-CIO video here.

Union members from various shops roamed the floors of the Capitol, going into each lawmaker’s office and asking them or their staffs, point blank, “Which side are you on?”

Outside the Capitol, a group of education, climate, and health care advocates, along with several Democrat lawmakers, stood in protest. Spotted were House members Andi Story of Juneau, Zack Fields (Anchorage union worker in his other job), and Grier Hopkins of Fairbanks.

The press releases went out from the Democrats:

Sen. Donny Olson issued a statement, calling the governor’s budget a declaration of war on rural Alaska. “It’s one of those things where it appears to me that he’s declaring war on rural residents in particular,” said the Golovin Democrat.

“It is quite clear that Governor Dunleavy does not take his job and our state’s Constitution seriously. The trend he is setting for the state is evident; strip public assets to fill private pockets. This is unacceptable, and quite frankly a dereliction of his constitutional duties,” said Sen. Tom Begich, and Anchorage Democrat. “The Senate Democrats will continue to work across party lines to build a proper budget that rebuilds safe communities, provides a world-class Pre-K through UA system, and delivers access to quality, affordable healthcare.”

“Governor Dunleavy is declaring war on seniors, kids, and the most vulnerable among us while holding harmless the most profitable companies in the world. Cutting Senior Benefits, education, and healthcare while increasing his own budget and not touching $1.9 billion in oil tax credits shows where his priorities lie, and it is not with Alaska,” said Sen. Bill Wielechowski, an Anchorage Democrat.

“Governor Dunleavy continues to ignore the cause of over 90 percent of crime in Alaska. Solely locking people up and throwing away the key is not the fiscally prudent answer. Substance abuse treatment and mental health services, combined with a strong education system, are the key to rebuilding safe communities and saving the state money for the long-term. Continuing to paralyze public safety with significant cuts to Troopers and VPSOs, who are the first line of defense for thousands of Alaskans, shows his lack of understanding of rural Alaska needs. If the Governor’s goal is to create more criminals, then this budget succeeds at that,” said Sen. Scott Kawasaki, a Fairbanks Democrat.

“Alaskans should be shocked not only at the debilitating budget cuts to education, health and social services, transportation, and the university, but at the callous disregard shown by the governor and his Outside budget director as to how these cuts affect the lives of people who live here,” said Jay Parmley, executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party. “Alaskans have the right to expect constitutionally mandated adequate education for our children, a high-quality university system, a Health and Social Services department that is equipped to care for Alaskans in need, and a transportation system that serves the unique needs of our state.”

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz was also ready:

“We’re gonna fight this. We’re gonna make sure that as many improvements can be made, as should be made, because this is not who we are. I am confident that the people of the state of Alaska are gonna rise to the occasion. This budget represents an attack on who we are. It represents an attack on individual Alaskans, on Alaskan families, on Alaskan communities, on Alaskan businesses. And we have, as we showed in the earthquake, demonstrated an ability to come together in order to combat adversity. This is adversity.

The Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association sent out a blistering statement, calling the budget “outrageous,” and said it will lead to “a state of despair for the future.”

Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
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.


  1. Don’t forget the media ready to serve and push the narrative. Yesterday’s question at the budget presentation “will people suffering cancer currently on Medicaid lose their coverage?” is the perfect example of the press perfectly acting out their partisan roles!

  2. Finally a governor with backbone. Someone who doesn’t do bait and switch but goes directly at the problem. Look at the campaign contributions of those that screech the loudest and you will understand. The screechers are the ones who got us in this fix. Gravy train over, new sheriff in town. Make Alaska Great Again!

  3. I note that Mayor Berkowitz declares that “this is not who we are.” Speaker Pelosi has said something similar in adamantly opposing border security. Perhaps the Mayor could spend a few moments clarifying, in his mind, “who we are.” Perhaps he could start by describing where the $1.6 billion is going to come from. (Hint: It ain’t the Tooth Fairy.). That might help people better understand his position.

  4. They demand all this stuff, claim it’s constitutionally mandated and barely adequate. Then they are even willing to murder children to get it, through abortion.
    If you murder enough hated kids, you can decrease the Ed budget while still increasing the amount paid per loved child, but that doesn’t make it right or moral. We are addicted to Satan’s abortion blood money like drug addicts.
    We need to separate ourselves from these genocide currencies by abolishing abortion. Every child is owed our protection or no children have it. Human rights do not exist without duty.

  5. People, this is all Kabuki theater. The Legislature will never approve 95% of Dunleavy’s cuts.
    However, this does shine a light on the core of the problem. Dividends vs. Slashed Government vs. Taxes vs.Savings/Investment. The days of wine and roses are over. There is not enough oil revenue for party favors anymore. We are still fortunate in that the Permanent Fund income will allow for low (zero now) State taxes, a reasonable level of government, and maybe even an individual trust account for each resident managed to grow in parallel with the Permanent Fund. The Dividend, as it is now structured, must go.

    • Hey I voted for Mike.
      But his plan to slash $1 billion and pay $4 billion for Dividends is a giant fake-out. See the ball in this hand? Oh no how did it get in the other hand?

      • It’s a fake out that will cause significant damage to our public institutions even if there is not a significant cut to our university system, K-12, or HHS. People won’t wait to see how things are resolved this summer. They’ll be looking for work elsewhere. Students at the UA schools are questioning whether they should go elsewhere. Those who were planning to join in the fall will think twice about doing so.

  6. If a person had put every Dividend into a stock portfolio since the beginning, how much would it be worth today? How about if it had performed at the same rate as the Permanent Fund?

  7. I told you who was behind all of this bedlam in Juneau. Vince Beltrami. All around sore loser. Union puke who only represents the radical side of unions. Teachers unions and public employees unions. The guys and gals in trade unions are typically much more conservative.

    • Yep! Vinny is in the union la-Bor-a-tory as we speak, cooking up the next addiction for the masses. Union crack. They can’t quit.

  8. When I was born, Bill Egan was Governor. When I graduated HS, Jay Hammond was Governor. Some weird stuff happened in between. The E.D. of the Dems has this to say: “Alaskans should be shocked not only at the debilitating budget cuts to education, health and social services, transportation, and the university, but at the callous disregard shown by the governor and his Outside budget director as to how these cuts affect the lives of people who live here,” said Jay Parmley, executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party.
    I don’t know off the top of my head what the budget was back then but guessing it was smaller. Also guessing when adjusted it also wasn’t very “porky” per person. Somehow, I was fed, educated, my health needs were met (and somehow not off the teet of the state!), my transportation needs were met, and I graduated from college without student loan debt. I worked hard, and played even harder 🙂 Still alive! Surprise!

    • Inflation, population growth, and less than half full pipeline changes the math. You’re going to be in for some very disappointing days ahead.

      In most places people actually have to pay for services. Imagine that!

    • In 1970 the year in which Bill Egan was elected the last time, the SOA Budget was $219 Million. In 1980, midway Jay Hammond’s second term and just as oil revenue was beginning to flow the SOA budget was $1.5 Billion. After the mid-80s oil price crash, the Operating budget settled in at $1.5 – $1.7 Billion or so and stayed there through the ’90s with a bit of a blip upward as oil revenue rose due to the First Gulf War. Capital Budgets through that period fluctuated based on just how successful Stevens, Murkowski, and Young were at getting federal revenue. There were quite a few years that the largest source of State revenue was federal money. We never used Permanent Fund Earnings in that period but during Knowles made some use of the Constitutional Budget Reserve, though the price of getting that 3/4 vote is dear.

      • One of those prices of that 3/4 vote was Medicaid expansion back then, raising the income floor for eligibility. We still pay for it now. The Governor could roll back eligibility to those levels if he had a willing Legislature. But, no, we have a bunch of whiners now.

      • The dollar has been crucified in the last 50 years.

        The Federal dollars that have kept our budgets afloat have also addicted us to that 90% participation rate. Trying to cut into anything that has Federal money attached results in such outsized impacts it’s going to make balancing the budget very difficult.

        If we got Federal dollars to participate with Troopers and winter snow removal we would stack up the necessary administration to get that money and pimp out our agencies the rest of the way.

        I’m not against Federal dollars but we need to have a sober understanding of the strings that come attached to that money and how they effect our economy, budget and politics.

        Based on what I’ve seen the administrative costs attached to those Federal dollars run to 10-15% of program costs. All of those accountants are PERS employees whose overhead costs if not their salary comes out of the GF.

        At what point have we shopped all of our agencies out to the Feds and a large portion of State employees are nothing more than professional moochers?

        Psalm 22:7 “The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.”

        • One of my criticisms of the State’s organization has long been that it made inadequate use of federal revenue. The culture of the State’s upper bureaucracy is such that they would rather make a dashing appearance on Gavel to Gavel wresting a million bucks from a recalcitrant Legislative committee than do the hard, dull, unseen work of developing a cost allocation plan or establishing an indirect cost rate so that all that overhead of federal programs can be charged to the US rather than the General Fund.

          That said, I’ll confess to being something of a hypocrite on the subject. I could have allocated a lot of the costs of my division to the operating departments, but if I did that, the director of widget making who was paying me for services to his division might think he was entitled to some say in what I did with my division, and my attitude was that I talked to the commissioner of administration, the commissioner talked to the Governor, and the Governor talked to God.

          • One problem I have with it Art is that we have to meet the standards of our Federal Partner agencies. They can grow our administrative needs with a whim and regulation. I see some of the worst bureaucratic creep in State agencies from things like EEO, EPA, and the ever increasing stack of requirements attached to each contract we let. And we can’t say no to that government cheese. The administrative positions for this compliance is a very difficult area to privatize. Trying to maintain core competency and stave off the bureaucratic creep while looking down the barrel of a tightening budget isn’t going to get any easier. Headline budget cuts just put more work on the good State employees already bearing the load, it doesn’t detach the parasites.

            A privatization sweep could clear out most of the deadwood, however, the Federal money makes that reset button nearly impossible to push.

            I still haven’t seen any mention of the $23M hole that Walker left in the Indirect Cost Appropriation Plan (ICAP) budget.

      • Thanks for those budget numbers Art. If anyone would have those handy it would be you :).
        For I ART LAUGHING: my point was that it didn’t matter really what the budget was. I/We managed. No matter what it was or is, we still have to get up in each morning and face the day. It was going to be what it was going to be, and then we adjusted and dealt with it. Tough times up ahead you say? For some I suppose, but for people that can think outside of the box, do some planning, spend their time focusing on making life happen for them rather than going on the rampage and stop relying on the Government to do every single thing for them, they will survive.

  9. I’m fairly confident the last time “Which Side Are You On?” was heard in State government was when I structured the State case to remove high level human resources and labor relations staff from unions in the Hickel Administration. In those days several members of the State’s labor relations staff had a modicum of singing ability and we always threatened to show up at the Juneau Folk Festival as “The Pinkertons” and perform old union organizing songs. I still know some of the words:

    They say in Harlan County/
    There are no neutrals there/
    You’ll either be a union man/
    Or a thug for J.H. Blair.

    Which side are you on, boys/
    Which side are you on?

    It’s looking like Governor Dunleavy is going to be needing some thugs. In my day somebody from Labor Relations would have been out there with a notebook and a camera making sure all the malcontents out singing songs and carrying signs were appropriately on approved leave and if not, they’d be getting those notorious “It is alleged that you have engaged in misconduct …” memos and their career indicator light would be brightly flashing.

  10. I want my dividend so I can transfer 30% of it to the federal goverment in terms of income tax because I like you am a great fan of increasing the size of the ferderal governemt and its overeach.

    • Cooper still has paid any taxes on the 200K he heisted in 1971. Funny, I always thought he’d end up in Alaska.

      • DB Cooper became an AK state employee. Still heisting for a living, but get a huge PERS in retirement. And hides in plain site.

    • 40 years of free Public Safety, free road maintenance, free public education, free and subsidized healthcare and free government didn’t benefit the “average Alaskan”? That’s an amazing claim. How do you propose to keep those services once the free money dries up? Or are you going to just do without?

      • C’mon, I can’t let you get away with that. You and I may be among the few who know what an indirect cost rate or a cost allocation plan are, but I know how to call BS too. Urban, wage-earning Alaskans don’t get any of that stuff free, and I would consider urban, wage-earning Alaskans to be “average Alaskans.”

        Urban, wage-earning Alaskans have subsidized people who have chosen an inefficient, archaic lifestyle. I’ve spent my life in Alaska in Juneau and Anchorage. My public safety, most of my road maintenance, my kids’ public education have all come primarily from my property and sales taxes. That said, in my time in Juneau, my property and sales taxes came from my government salary but I didn’t have to back up to get my pay check; the State got its money’s worth.

        Whether you’re Native, a rural Bush Rat, or one of the 30% or so of Alaskans who live on welfare and crime; the rest of us pay for your lifestyle. Really, it wouldn’t bother me for people who live off government benefits to do without.

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