MacKinnon defends Dunleavy for lack of specifics on $1 billion budget cuts

In an opinion piece in the Anchorage Daily News, Sen. Anna MacKinnon defends former Sen. Mike Dunleavy for not offering specifics on his 2017 idea of permanently cutting $1.1 billion from the operating budget.

It’s indefensible.

“Mike Dunleavy and his fellow senators developed a plan heading into the 2017 session to make spending reductions and reduce the size of government,” said MacKinnon.

That’s not true. Dunleavy and fellow Republicans talked endlessly about “right-size government,” a meaningless term that MacKinnon resurrects in her Dunleavy defense, but there was no real plan to cut $1.1 billion or $750 million.

It was all talk, like Sen. Pete Kelly’s boast that he—a career government worker and recipient of a state pension—stood to defend capitalism in Juneau, while charging that House Democrats and Gov. Bill Walker flew the socialist flag. Dunleavy called the operating budget the “enemy of Alaska.”

What MacKinnon doesn’t admit is that the GOP majority in the Senate believed in early 2017 that Dunleavy’s $1.1 billion scheme was dumb, so they talked about a permanent cut of $750 million. Neither number was real.

For MacKinnon to complain that Alaska has a “supersized government” is a bit much, given her years as a prime co-author of the supersized budget.

The foolishness of closing down the entire University of Alaska, the Department of Transportation, other programs and dozens of schools—which is what $1 billion in cuts would look like—stopped the plan from solidifying.

Another point here is that MacKinnon, Kelly, Sen. Kevin Meyer and other Senate leaders wanted to cut the Permanent Fund Dividend to $1,000, while Dunleavy has made a bigger dividend the central theme of his gubernatorial campaign—never bothering to show how he would pay for state government and preserve the fund for future generations without taxes.

MacKinnon blames the failure to end “supersized government” on Gov. Bill Walker and the state House, but the Senate Republicans are trying to hide from their own inflated rhetoric.

They had the ability each year to rewrite the supersized budget and present a “right-sized budget” to the House.

That way they could show Alaskans that cutting 10,000 more jobs across the state would give us right-sized government.

But a desire for self-preservation in politics led MacKinnon, Dunleavy and the rest of the GOP to forget about cuts of that magnitude. Now she uses that term again, offering no clue of what she means by the right size.

The Senate GOP did go along with the House and governor in cutting the PFD to a smaller size in recent years.

Both parties suffer from something of a split personality on this issue, made clear by the contradiction between governing and campaigning.

In May, MacKinnon cheered the plan to to restructure the Permanent Fund: “Today, legislators from across the political spectrum came together for a historic vote to protect Alaska’s Permanent Fund. This bill stabilizes our revenue stream, providing reliable funding for Alaskans who rely every day on state troopers, educators and heath care providers.”

I still believe that cutting the PFD makes sense as part of a balanced plan with taxes, but MacKinnon and the other GOP Senate leaders wanted the PFD cut and nothing else.

Dunleavy didn’t want the PFD cut, just as he didn’t want taxes or large budget cuts before he surrendered and quit the Legislature. Now he offers a plan that consists of promising everything to everybody, avoiding all talk of difficult choices.

It’s as indefensible as his plan in early 2017 to cut $1.1 billion in state spending.

Dermot Cole1 Comment