THE SHOW MUST GO ON: BUDGET DIALOGUE AT 49TH STREET BREWERY
As expected, about 300 pro-tax, anti-Permanent Fund dividend Alaskans chanted and ranted, grandstanded and reprimanded the governor of Alaska outside the 49th Street Brewery in Anchorage on Tuesday evening. It was a beautiful evening for a protest.
Inside a full house of other Alaskans, a notably older crowd, was politely listening to Gov. Michael Dunleavy and his team describe the Dunleavy fiscal plan, how the state came to run out of cash, and why such drastic budget cut measures are needed now.
The Dunleavy team — including the governor, OMB Director Donna Arduin, Attorney General Kevin Clarkson, Revenue Commissioner Bruce Tangeman — gathered on the stage and went through a program that had a series of slides full of charts and diagrams.
Dunleavy started at the beginning of the oil boom, when Alaska was rolling in money and spent it like there was no tomorrow. But the spending really got going once the price of oil spiked in 2006. But the prices started crashing in 2013.
Commissioner Tangeman was up next, and he laid out the alternatives — Alaska can drain the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve Account, enact taxes and cut the Permanent Fund dividend, or cut spending, essentially back to 2006 levels.
Attorney General Clarkson detailed the three constitutional amendments that the Administration says will help stabilize Alaska going forward by protecting the dividend from future political raids, prevent an income tax without a vote of the people, and put a cap on state spending. The Administration wants Alaskans to vote on all three.
For many years after oil was flowing through the pipeline, Alaska’s budget stayed remarkably stable, with about a 2.5 percent growth per year. Then, in about 2006, the budget increased by 15 percent.
If Alaska lawmakers had kept the level of annual spending increases to 2.5 percent instead of the spike, Alaska would have $130 billion in the Permanent Fund now, instead of the $65 billion it actually has, and it would be generating more than $6 billion a year for state services — plenty to do the job.
Instead, the state plowed through $29 billion, as lawmakers started to horse trade away Alaska’s future in exchange for special spending in their home districts.
DECIDE FOR YOURSELF: WATCH THE PRESENTATION
Outside, protesters were having none of it. They’d made up their minds. Led by Anchorage Assembly member Forrest Dunbar, they chanted and clapped as instructed: “Save our Ferries. Clap. Clap. Clap-Clap. Clap”
Some banged on the door of the brewery to upset the proceedings inside, and a couple of protesters burst into the room and unfurled a “RECALL DUNLEAVY” banner. Dunleavy gave them a nonchalant look as they were ushered out.
Although it’s not clear the protesters outside learned anything from the presentation other than some old Berkeley protest chants from the 1960s, they can still watch it at the Anchorage Daily News’ live feed here.
Today, the governor is heading to Nome, where he will continue explaining his plan to those who are interested in listening. The 4:30 pm event is free and open to the public but registration is required and seating is limited. Register here.