Unfortunate nature of government: Spending more than we have - Must Read Alaska
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Tuesday, October 19, 2021
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Unfortunate nature of government: Spending more than we have

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Planning and readiness.

They are the most critical elements needed for success in any endeavor. Through six years in the U.S. military and two deployments to the Middle East, I had no choice but to accept that planning and readiness are, in fact, the greatest defenses one has when staring any adversity, or even death, in the face.

When it counts, it is planning and logical thinking – not emotional reaction – that keeps you alive and afloat.

Today, as I sit in Juneau as a member of the citizen Legislature, I am increasingly concerned that far too many Capitol players and influencers have adopted the practice of emotional sensationalism to avoid hard conversations about fiscal planning and readiness.

Over the past month, I’ve watched as special interests launched protests and organized biased public testimony. I’ve overheard community organizers imploring their followers to act like children who are threatened with the loss of a toy rather than rational adults focused on solving fiscal problems.

The fact that special interest groups can get away with using vulnerable people to manufacture crises as a way of avoiding unpopular conversations about real problems is, in my opinion, abhorrent. Nonetheless, this outrage has led to the House Majority’s conclusion that the government must continue to grow.

At what expense, though?

The Majority claims to have a plan to pay for more government spending, so why haven’t they talked about the specifics of it publicly? Is the plan for an income tax? Is the plan for an 80 percent cut to the Permanent Fund dividend, as the rumors have circulated? Alaskans deserve to know what will be asked of their pocketbooks before legislators rush a budget through before the deadline.

House members are right to scrutinize specific elements of the governor’s budget, but to throw it out the window completely in favor of a management plan created by a previous governor of Alaska is a slap to the face of Alaskans. We are sent to Juneau to implement their will – not to tell them that we know better than they do.

Until we address our spending problem and enforce a working spending cap, it doesn’t matter how much revenue we bring in as a state – we will always spend more than we have. That is the unfortunate nature of government. We’re taking a lot of buns out of the oven, but we aren’t putting any dough back in.

The state has a spending and accountability problem. If they are going to take your money to continue feeding the beast, they should at least let you know what their plan is.

While it’s true we need to look out for the needs of Alaskans, emotional sensationalism will not drive good policy decisions – logic and data will. Let’s have the tough conversations, right-size government, and implement a plan to prepare Alaska for decades to come.

Feel-good politics doesn’t pay the bills.

Rep. Josh Revak is a six-year combat veteran and recipient of the Purple Heart. Elected in 2018, he serves Anchorage District 25 as a member of the Alaska House of Representatives.

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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

  • Thank you Josh! So glad I voted for you; keep it up!

  • This letter condemning emotional reactions should probably have been tabled considering the accusations your own staffer faces.

    There are easy answers to our fiscal problems and I’m not opposed to reasonable and justified cuts but the governor’s approach lacks logic, reason or any hint of proper analysis.

    We do need an income tax. We need to contribute and to capture revenue from out-of-state workers. We need to also continue to evaluate our share of resource revenue to ensure Alaskans are getting a good deal.

    • I respectively disagree that we need an income tax, supposedly “to capture revenue from out-of-state workers.” First, many of those out-of-state workers are here only because their jobs require skills most Alaskans either don’t have or don’t want to do. Why don’t our over-bloated Universities have any courses specific to train oil slope jobs? Second, I can’t speak for any other cities, but Anchorage peoples’ personal budgets are already being stretched thin with current bonds and local taxes. Asking some of our poorest workers to have to lose more income is an incentive to not even work.
      Although I didn’t vote for our current Governor (or Begich, either), I agree with his over-all budget cuts, just not necessarily at how he went about it. State pensions are part of the biggest problem we currently have, and it will continue to get worse.
      Here’s what I suggest: 1) Make Alaska a Right to Work state, cut corporate taxes, eliminate most of the licensing requirements, and eliminate the State’s requirements that only unionized companies can be used, like in school buildings or the roads. Welcome private companies and try to encourage non-oil, non-tourism, non-fishing companies to Alaska. 2) Strengthen charter schools and create a voucher system to allow parents to choose where they’d like their kids to learn, including public, charter, private, Montessori, etc. Our current public schools have the erroneous belief that one-size-fits-all teaching works, and it doesn’t. Also drastically cut school’s administration, where 58% of spending to schools is spent. 3) Quit subsidizing the state ferry system and allow the private ferries to return. Our state ferries are dilapidated and environmentally-unfriendly. Let them retire. 4) Re-assess the State’s pay scale. Bring it more in line with average private businesses.
      I could go on, but I’m sure you see the gist of my beliefs. Basically, let many of the current state-run departments to either be taken over by private companies or allow them to compete fairly with other private businesses.
      Alaska can’t keep funding pensions. I don’t want to see us turn into another high-tax, high-debt state like New Jersey where they probably won’t be able to pay their current pension plans within the next decade. Other peoples’ money always runs out eventually.

      • I’d like permission to post your comment on Twitter. Please comment back if this is allowed. You have spoken what most Alaskans want, yet our voices are censored, yelled over, or disallowed in the public forums. #AlaskaMAGA

        • I cannot verify evidence of censorship in any way. But squeaky wheels get the most attention. With that said, I quietly, through a social network, voice my opinion. Who is reading this discourse? Which of my comments do you wish to post on Twitter?

        • To whom are you requesting permission to post? If it’s what I posted, please, go ahead and post away. I’m not ashamed by anything I believe or say.

  • Nationally and locally Democrats have had dominant control of K-12 education, university education, print media, broadcast media, social media and entertainment for several generations and the results are disastrous.
    The US spends a lot more than most countries yet is not in the top 20 of most k-12 rankings. AK spends more than almost any US state and we are at the bottom of 50 states for academic results. As for university, yes 50% of world’s best schools are US, but disturbingly student debt is now $1.5 trillion. The earnings potential doesn’t justify the debt but the schools got paid and the students (probably also taxpayers) will suffer. Print, broadcast, social and entertainment is mostly Leftist garbage but hugely lucrative. We are getting ripped off by people who claim to care about children and us but obviously that it false. Now the AK D’s are saying the unsustainable entitlement monster was put in place by Republicans so it can’t possible be cut because Democrats are innocent bystanders and the only solution is to implement an income tax to sustain status quo spending!

  • Re: Constitution of the State of Alaska: Article 11 (eleven)…. in response to Josh Revak Well spoken Josh!

    Article 11 SECTIONS ( citizens rights) Initiative, Referendum, and Recall
    1. Initiative and Referendum
    2. Application
    3. Petition
    4.Initiative Election
    5. Referendum Election
    6. Enactment
    7. Restrictions
    8. RECALL

  • Outstanding!

  • Recall the spenders. We need a legislature who understands that Alaska needs to be fiscally solvent.

  • Okay, got it. You’re a Vet, like thousands of others of us. You’re also a FNG in the legislature. If you’re going to pipe up publicly, here’s a little unsolicited advice about your new civilian role. 1. Button your lip till you can speak/write coherently in an informed way, especially in regard to the governor’s train wreck of budget proposals. 2. Find it within yourself to show a modicum of respect for members of the House’s majority coalition (Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike) who have been around awhile and who may know a few things a rookie like you doesn’t. 3. Take something to prevent your head from swelling too much. 4. If you can’t keep your staffer under control, fire him… or consider another occupation.

    • Remember Warren, respect goes two ways.

      If Josh was a fire breathing leftist grabbing for everyone’s PFD, screaming about raising oil taxes and calling for an income tax, would you be as snarky to him? Leftists waste no time trying to push their agenda, IE, AOC and her New Green Deal. We have no time to stop this bus called the State of Alaska budget from going over the cliff. Josh sees that.
      As for his staffer, I can’t help but wonder what his side of the story is. Landfield rushed to publish his side. Further, if you or I got in a bar fight (separately or whatever), or employers most likely won’t be held responsible and normal, reasoned people won’t care who we work for. Seriously, the smackdown of Landfield is a nothing burger. Except to Jeff Landfield.

    • Mr. Keogh, every time you speak you reaffirm why we the voters decided to elect Mike Dunleavy over you. Take caution with your disrespectful tone.

    • Warren your all wet. I am an old vet with a lot of battle scars from fighting the spend and tax policies out on the coast, the Democratic Haven on the YK Delta.

      Legislators of all varieties have spent like the proverbial”drunken sailor”.

      Walker is not your Governor, amen to that.

  • Conservatives need to attend and be more vocal in the meetings that are held on budgets. We’ve been polite and proper. And are mocked and verbally abused by the leftists. Sometimes physically abused. The left has multiple groups that screech the same message, MORE GOVERNMENT! And our message is ignored, overlooked and drowned out. We don’t need to be abusive, we must be firm and let our representatives know we will primary them out if they’re RINO’s, and vote them out when they’re leftists. If we fail to plan to take back our city, state and nation, we plan to fail.
    Vote conservitaves to the Assembly. If you don’t know who the leftists running are, just look who’s endored by the unions.

    • Who is saying “MORE GOVERNMENT”? I see someone bellowing about “MORE PFD” at the expense of confiscating property taxes from around the State.


      This ongoing narrative that government hasn’t been cut in the last 4 years is tedious and tendacious. Where have you been?

  • You complain that they are slapping the budget while ignoring that the budget slaps the Constitution and State statutes. The budget is non-responsive to the fundamental requirements placed on it and the administration stands mute. The Governor is as much in a fantasy world as the spend what we don’t have Democrats. Is it time to get serious yet or do we have to wait for the recall?

    • Why wait? Recall legislators who lack courage to end the PFD! If a legislator resists cutting the spending, elect people who DO have courage.

      • We have to wait until 120 days after the election before the petitions start rolling. I think the whole circus should get nothing less than a shot across the bow. Maybe a couple of them go down in a special election. Get ready for the mother of all government shutdowns.


        I’m thinking we might be able to blow a huge hole in our PFDs by shutting down Federal projects and moving 100’s of millions of dollars into non-participation status. Heading into the rocks we need someone serious at the rudder. I thought that’s what we were getting, oh how wrong I was.

  • Thanks Josh. When there is ignorance of reality, shouting, pouting, and pointing out it being about “Me” you know you are over the target! Scored a hit with Warren.

  • The topic is: Reducing spending in this state. I say eliminate the PFD entirely, or suspend it for a decade. Residents needing $$ relief for heating costs can apply for it.

    • What part of “permanent” don’t you understand?

      • The part where people think they will be getting multi-thousand dollar disbursements into perpetuity by the mere fact that they exist in Alaska.


        If the fund is to be permanent the disbursements must reflect that intention.

      • Death and taxes are permanent. Anyone who believes that monetary gifts falling out of the sky can occur permanently will be disappointed.

  • I see there’s a wing nut or two commenting. Take the PFD. Tax more. Start an income tax. Recall anyone with enough fiscal responsibility to cut spending. WINGNUT CENTRAL!! I don’t know Keogh or Zajac, but I recognize their rhetoric. Nothing good to say about anyone or anything that keeps them from having their way with OUR MONEY. The exact kind of people that put Alaska in the bind it’s in now. And they want to make it worse. MORE SPENDING! MORE, MORE, MORE. And not an idea or a clue as to how to fix the fiscal disaster that walker fixed for us. I have an idea or two. First, get rid of all public employee and teacher unions. Second, stop spending money the State doesn’t have. Third, stop stealing from real Alaskans to feed your greed. Fourth, why don’t you and your cronies just pack up and go back where you came from?

    • Your interpretation seems incoherent. I said the opposite of what you are inferring.

  • Rep. Revak, you’re either too naïve to understand it or, like so many Republicans, too concerned about being nice to say it, but the reality is that the House Majority does not represent the majority of Alaskans, and they weren’t elected to do so. The communists, excuse me, Democrats and the quislings in the Majority were elected to represent unionized public employees, the education racket, and the healthcare racket. It is their job to make sure that every available State dime and then some gets spent on their owners’ behalf.

    The fundamental Dunleavy premise is this: here is what we can afford with recurring revenue; if you want something more, you have to take it from the People. I think the Administration is a bunch of naïfs and they will fold, but they may stumble into a government shutdown confrontation on July 1st that neither they nor the People are ready to deal with.

    My time with government was before OODA Loops was a part of the vocabulary, but I did have a well-thumbed copy of von Clauswitz’ “The Art of War.” I spent most of my career with office walls covered with butcher paper covered with “If, then” statements. You’re right; it is all about planning. Very few people can make good decisions on the fly and we know their names: Hannibal at Cannai, Julius at Alesia, Lee and Jackson at Chancellorsville, and the “Hail Mary” flank attack in the Gulf War come readily to mind.

    There may be some strategic genius in the Administration that has a wall covered with “If, then” statements, but I’ve not seen any evidence of it. I worked for the Legislature enough to know that it is very unlikely anybody over there is thinking about, “If, then.” So, what we have is two teen-aged boys careening down a road in the dark in a game of chicken. We have the same stasis we had during the Walker Administration: You can either pass a budget that the communists and quislings will accept or you can shut down the government. There is no Door C.

    Oh, and you can be a nice Republican and fire your staffer for punching Jeff out, or you can just say Jeff had it coming. Anyway, winning on a discharge case over off-duty conduct is no easy thing. I know from first hand experience that the “nice” Republicans are going to insist that you fire your staffer, but if you’ve done a little thinking and planning, you know that is why Republicans always lose. Hopefully, “nice” is over.

  • For those who think Alaska state government is not TOO big:
    The pay and number of Alaska’s state government employees greatly exceeds
    that of other states as measured against the private sector: Alaska’s ratio of
    state government compensation to private-sector compensation is the highest in
    the country and state employment to private-sector employment is the 2nd
    highest in the country.

  • Welcome back, Josh
    Invading the Holy City of Juneau won’t be easy, especially while listening to everybody who knows how to do it better than you… but hasn’t done it.
    Might be helpful to figure out what it takes to start Alaska’s very own Anbar Awakening…
    Keep winning hearts and minds. Read and understand the other side’s playbook, Saul Alinsky’s “Rules For Radicals”, learn how to use it against them.
    If this thing is winnable, it’ll be because of people like you.

  • Josh, thanks for the comments. Yes, planning and readiness are key; however, Alaska has created its own monster. Once the generation after generation has latched on to the teet, it is very, very, difficult to ever pull them away. When we run out of other people’s money, I suppose those of us left will be walking in a circle in jumpsuits, singing some pinko-commie songs trying to grow veggies or more weed for our “leaders” to disburse as they see fit.
    As a person that spent many years too close to the jug (many moons ago), my employer was never responsible for any BS I pulled. This isn’t the first time a staffer has done something unsavory and it won’t be the last. I am sure you are dealing with it internally. I’m sure you won’t let the lib’s or weak R’s tell you how to handle it. I would have LOVED to have witnessed the event though! We are unfortunate in the fact that we only get speedo-man’s version of events. If there is alcohol in a room, you will find speedo-man – particularly if it is free alcohol. He read your FB post and he supported your campaign so perhaps he will take it to heart and seek his own help with his problem(s) before it is too late.
    Negative people have a problem for every solution. Keep up the good fight Josh. I’m counting on you. We can no longer have Republicans that cave to this crap. It seems so simple to say “we don’t have the money to fund all of this into perpetuity so something has to give” but they keep coming and coming and wanting more and more of our money. Makes no damn sense.

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