Top Alaska DOT priorities have nothing to do with transportation

Alaska Department of Transportation Commissioner John MacKinnon has outlined his goals for the state agency, the top two of which have nothing to do with transportation.

In a message to the more than 3,000 employees of the department, MacKinnon said “we will work to carry out the policy and directives” of Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

He said the directives are: 1. Full PFD. 2. Repeal SB 91. 3. Sustainable budget.

MacKinnon needs to dream up a longer list, though perhaps the word has gone out to all state employees that there is only room for three Dunleavy directives.

The “full” Permanent Fund Dividend and the repeal of the criminal justice overhaul bill approved in 2016 have nothing to do with transportation and public facilities. Cutting the transportation budget is another matter.

“Of these three, a sustainable budget is going to have the biggest impact on our department and how we execute our mission,” MacKinnon said. The governor plans to cut the state operating budget to match revenues of about $3.2 billion, meaning a cut in state spending of $1.5 billion or so.

MacKinnon said he is working with the new budget director, Donna Arduin, to “explore options” about how to reduce transportation spending and said there could be “significant changes to the way we’ve operated in the past.”

In a long-range transportation plan approved in 2016, the state concluded that new revenue was needed to preserve and maintain the transportation infrastructure in Alaska.

It also suggested that the state should look for ways to transfer responsibility for maintenance to local governments where possible. This approach to cutting the state budget will prove unpopular with local governments and it is not what people expect when they hear state officials talk about shrinking government, but don’t be surprised if it happens. It is one of the easiest steps for the state to take.

Another one is to reduce the maintenance schedule and allow facilities to deteriorate, shrinking government by pushing the problem into the future.

The department maintains 5,629 miles of roads, 74 maintenance stations, 239 airports, 2 international airports, 19 harbors, 10 ferries, 837 bridges, 7,372 pieces of equipment, 776 public facilities. It receives about $380 million in general funds and designated general funds.

Dermot Cole5 Comments