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Sunday, September 22, 2019
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The mountain has labored and brought forth a mouse

By ART CHANCE

The mountain that labored and brought forth a mouse is an old Greek proverb that goes back to Aesop.  

It refers to great promises and great labors that produce little result; in most of the Latin versions it says produces ridiculous results.  

I think the old proverb applies to the government of Alaska right now.

The Dunleavy Administration has labored mightily.  They demanded the resignations of 900 employees.  I’ve long advocated that any Republican following a Democrat into office, (and the Walker Administration was a Democrat administration), should fire everyone s/he has a legal right to fire, but s/he should be prepared for the firestorm.  

The Administration got the firestorm of opposition, though it only ultimately took a handful of the demanded resignations. Not only did Gov. Michael Dunleavy not fire a lot of the people he should have fired, he earned the enmity of those who remained; he’ll be thwarted, leaked, and sabotaged for the rest of the term.  

The Administration dramatically cut both the Operating and Capital Budgets. It can be done, though not as dramatically as they proposed, but it takes a very good communications program and a very good relationship with the Legislature.  

And again, the Administration has to be prepared for the firestorm. When the Legislature proved recalcitrant and adjourned with nothing accomplished, the governor did an in-your-face and called them into Special Session in a middle school in Wasilla, rather than the friendly confines of Juneau.   

The governor can do that, but he has to be prepared to send the State Troopers to bring any recalcitrant legislators to the session in handcuffs.   He didn’t force the Wasilla session and all other legislative business was conducted in Juneau, despite the fact that there is almost no housing or lodging available in Juneau in summer, and what can be had is very expensive.  

If you let yourself lose, you will keep losing until you figure out how to win.  The Dunleavy Administration has some figuring to do.

The governor promised the full statutory Permanent Fund dividend and hinted, without really saying so, that he was in favor of restoring previous dividends to the full statutory amount. There is a good argument that the Permanent Fund dividend promise is what got him elected.  The Legislature went through a whole Regular Session and Special Sessions and only a few hardcore conservatives even mentioned a full statutory PFD.

As the Legislature developed an Operating Budget that swelled at the behest of the union racket, the healthcare racket, and the education racket – and even the seniors chimed in, the governor promised the use of his red pen for line item vetoes.  

The Legislature used the Capital Budget, which contains most of the State match for federal revenue, to largely thwart the Governor’s much-touted red pen. I predicted in this column. months ago that the Legislature would use the Capital Budget as the vehicle to restore any of the governor’s line item vetoes. If I can figure it out, somebody on the Third Floor should have as well.

Along the way, the Administration got the first State employee strike in 42 years, a strike that was easily foreseen and should have been easily prevented, yet the State got blindsided.   

The union set a time for the strike and as that time passed the vessels stopped at the next port, and the unlicensed employees struck, leaving their passengers and their vehicles stranded away from their intended destination.  

I’ve seen no evidence nor heard any reports of the State even trying to negotiate a completion of the voyage agreement before the strike. That cost the State the better part of $10 Million for ticket refunds and cancelled reservations and other strike associated costs.  That money can be made up either with reduced operations next year or by getting the Legislature to make up the money; good luck with that.

The Administration and the Republicans in the Legislature have squandered any opportunity to get any operating or wage concessions from the unions. Every one of the unions is sitting happily under contracts that they negotiated with the Walker Administration, many of them at the 11th hour after Bill Walker had already been defeated.  

The Republican “controlled” Senate could have disapproved any or all of the 11th hour sweetheart deals Walker gave away, but they did nothing.  

The Administration let the licensed marine unions run for cover with new agreements even before the Inlandboatmen’s Union strike. Then, even after they had endured all the damage from the blatantly illegal strike with which they were blindsided, the Administration let the union surrender on relatively favorable terms.  The season was lost; who that supported this Administration needs the ferry system after September? From September to May, a strike saves money.

Gov. Dunleavy ran principally on criminal law reform, a sustainable budget, and a statutory PFD.  He got criminal law reform that gave him some of what he wanted.  The budget will have real dollar cuts for the first time in State history, but it is nothing like a sustainable budget matching our recurring revenue.  We’re all supposed to be happy with about half of a statutory PFD and no mention of past takings.

The Administration’s labors produced an intractable Legislature, the majority of which flatly rejected the governor’s program.   

The unions got what they’ve wanted and what they have rearranged Alaska politics to get, not losing one dime in union dues revenue and thwarting as much of the Janus decision as possible.   

It didn’t help that the Dunleavy Administration’s tough talk and actions they couldn’t back up gave the employees every reason in the world to run to the safety of the unions.  Now, none of the unions will have to face negotiations with the Dunleavy Administration until very near the end of the first term.   

I’ve never seen the governor who had the guts to confront even one of the unions, and certainly not all of them, anywhere near a gubernatorial election. 

There was a message to be communicated and the Administration failed.   I’ll give them that it is almost impossible for a Republican governor to be heard in Alaska’s leftist dominated media, but they hardly tried.   

The governor submitted a budget that could be paid for out of recurring revenue and proposed a full statutory PFD paid for from the Earnings Reserve Account. The message should have been loud and clear that if anyone or any group wanted more in the Operating or Capital Budget, the funds had to be taken from the PFD and the ERA. 

At best, that message was muffled and even the muffled message was drowned out by the bleating and wailing of the moochers and looters.

Instead, the Administration’s great labors were portrayed as an attack on the people of Alaska and that message stuck.  The real attack was on the People of Alaska to whom the Permanent Fund Dividend belongs and for whom it is vitally important to either have necessities or to provide amenities that others expect.  State employees and educators making $100,000 a year did fine.  Million-dollar-a-year health care administrators did just fine. Neither class sees a PFD as anything more than mad money.   

Great labors and much sound and fury produced only the status quo and a mouse of a PFD.   

The only play left on the board is an attempt to use operating budget cuts to get spending to a sustainable level.  The Administration has already demonstrated that its management team simply doesn’t know enough about Executive Branch operations to be able to cut the budget with a sharp pencil rather than a dull axe.   

The current Legislature has already demonstrated that it doesn’t have the guts for any real cuts and especially any cuts that affect the union racket, the healthcare racket, and the education racket.   If after one look at the recently published test scores from our schools, any one, and certainly anyone with Senator or Representative in front of their name, wants to give the education racket any more money s/he is just a paid hack for the National Extortion, excuse me, Education Association.  The Medicaid largesse is still pouring out and the healthcare administrator types are still cutting their fat hog.   

Unionized public employees are enjoying nice raises and most of them have 3-4 percent step increases every year as well.  The rest of us get to suck hind teat while the dog that caught the car it was chasing tries to figure out what to do with it.

 Art Chance is a retired Director of Labor Relations for the State of Alaska, formerly of Juneau and now living in Anchorage. He is the author of the book, “Red on Blue, Establishing a Republican Governance,” available at Amazon. 

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  • Which begs us to ask the question:

    Governor Dunleavy, are you a man or a mouse?

  • Unforced errors hurt the most.

    • Yes they do.

  • You don’t speak for me Art. My “mad” money is tied up making payments on 3 separate student loans. Mike hasn’t had a lot of help now has he? It’s early in the game. Lots of innings still to be played. You talk as if the game’s over. Every day is a new day.

  • Governor Deleavy was unprepared to govern when he took office. As both Dunleavy and Trump discovered, campaigning for office and doing the job require entirely different skills sets. At the onset they did not surround themselves with competent administrators and executives. In particular, Tuckerman Babcock was incompetent and woefully Dunleavy listened to him.

    When the governor asked 900 at will employees for resignations at least half of them should have been accepted. How could Dunleavy believe that he would succeed making fundamental changes in government with opposing career bureaucrats in place? That debacle makes one wonder why Dunleavy went through that trouble in the first place for such meager results? I see the inept counsel of Tuckerman Babcock in that fiasco.

    Dunleavy’s communication endeavors with the public are pathetic. He has allowed the left leaning media and their friends to essentially dictate the script. The governor should issue updates every day about how much more the state spent yesterday than it received in revenue.

    Dunleavy proposed a significant and legitimate reduction to university funding. The regents were prepared to make necessary changes to the system, but then Dunleavy relented. Now the university bureaucracy is working hard to maintain the status quo. So, again in next budget cycle Dunleavy is faced with proposing another university budget reduction or letting his second thought agreement stand. It makes one wonder what he was thinking in the first place? If he was not prepared to defend and implement his initial budget reduction then he should have not proposed it in the first place.

    Time and time again, we see Dunleavy announce something significant and then he retreats. In so doing his credibility suffers. Doesn’t the governor have a staff that thinks these things through, anticipates the blow back and has a strategy ready to deal with the outcry? As I said in the beginning of this, campaigning and governing require different skill sets.

    Where I moved to Alaska I was imbued with the notion that Alaskans are a rugged self sufficient bunch. Soon I learned that belief is nonsense. Fact is every Alaskan is sucking on some government teat – and by and large they don’t want it to stop. Alaska is in dire financial circumstances. We either reduce spending or raise revenue with new taxes. It is that simple! It is the message Governor Dunleavy must repeat ad nauseam.

    • How bout raising revenue with new industry? You advocate for more teat sucking (through taxes) before ever even considering new revenue sources! The state is sitting on millions of board feet of lumber from dead spruce, Pebble has been desperately trying to get up and running for well over a decade, we kick the oil companies in the teeth with a never ending rollercoaster ride on royalties, meanwhile our fishing resources are being plundered by Seattle based fishing fleets. There is plenty of money to be earned by hardy Alaskans if environmentalists and beurocrats would get out of the way. Until that happens teat sucking is all Alaskans will be left with.

      • Where did I advocate for more teat sucking? Reading is fundamental!

    • Don, do you know Tuckerman? Many really good conservatives have been appointed at TB’s recommendation. Blame this mess on the legislature… Are you familiar with how state govt business is conducted? The Governor’s power is limited, and Mike has been forced to do business with folks who don’t want what he is proposing… who have enough stroke to stop most of his agenda. I give Mike Dunleavy an “A”, his results a “B”.

  • President Trump didn’t want to upset the apple cart in firing staffers, but he soon found out they were not loyal to the office of the presidency, and they were indeed fired. Trump has done a fine job keeping us safe even with a back stabber in every coat closet at the white house. Dunleavy should fire them all. There aren’t too many of us conservatives left up here, so there is concern about backlash. Many have softened to the daily blows delivered by radical leftists and fence sitters. I’m sure he feels he is out there all alone. Probably wondering just what the hell he was thinking by running. He has a good heart and truly wants what is best for Alaskans.

    • Greg, It is all well and good that Dunleavy “has a good heart and truly wants what is best for Alaskans,” but the job of governor is not for the faint of heart. It’s the difference between high school tail football and pro football. First, Dunleavy must clearly articulate a clear and forceful message to the citizens of Alaska. Second, he must put in place a team that will develop and implement his strategy. And third it would help if he were a bit ruthless in dealing with malcontents in government. Dunleavy is losing his grip on things and if he doesn’t turn it around in the next years it’s a redo of the Walker administration.

      • I agree with you. It will be helpful when we replace much of the House.

        • Have at it Bucko.

  • Holdovers from the previous administration are nothing more than a microcosm of what we call at the federal level, Deep State. These bad actors in the Alaskan government are just as likely to backstab their brother as to do so with a man they can’t stand. Dunleavy represents to them what Trump represents to the Fake News Industrial Complex, led by the New York Crimes, C[IA]NN and the Associated Trash. Had Dunleavy gotten rid of the previous administration workers, he would still have to contend with a hostile House. But at least he would have had a lot less pushback from the people serving the governor.

    • Med check needed.

  • The hostile House wouldn’t exist if some so called Republicans stuck together with their team and helped the Governor do the hard job of governing. Next year’s election will likely see several of them replaced and that is why the recall folks are working so hard to remove the Governor. They know the House will likely flip back to having real conservatives in charge, in which case the Governor’s agenda will be easier to implement. Nearly three and a half years still to go in the Governor’s first term, so their is still hope for more significant changes in personnel and the budget.

    • Yes. Rino’s will be gone. Many of the House majority as well.

  • When you take the job of Governor of a State you are the No. 1 Man to carry out what you have promised no matter what else happens. Yes, that take raw guts but that is the primary reason for taking that job in the first place. To begin with he should have called out the State Troopers to haul the rogue element out of Juneau to Wasilla to show his strength. You are the Governor, so act like a Governor. Also, get rid of all the rogue elements in your Administration A.S.A.P. War has been declared on We The People whether anyone wants to admit that or not.
    Seymour Marvin Mills Jr. sui juris

    • Arthur: This is a well composed column that hangs together nicely even if some of the examples you use as basis for conclusion are a little overwrought.
      Indeed, it turns out governing is way different and in some regards harder than campaigning.
      In the end, of course, we get what we deserve in this democracy.
      Oh well …………

      • What got Dunleavy elected was this:
        1) Walker kept stealing dividend money from prior years;
        .
        2) Walker’s business cronies and gas promoters were cheats;
        .
        3) Walker’s Light Governor was a pig;
        .
        4) Begich’s campaign commercials were nauseating;
        .
        5) Dunleavy was promising to drain the swamp, and get rid of the Walker crooks.

        I could care less about the Dividend.

    • Another med check required.

      • Perhaps, but he is correct about war being declared on the GOP. Even old school Dems are fearful of the new radical bunch.

  • I like Mike and agree with Art.

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