Right-size government update: Curtis Thayer lands another state job

Republican activist Curtis Thayer, who has argued for cutting the state budget during most of his adult life, has landed another position on the state payroll, this time as executive director of the Alaska Energy Authority.

While Thayer has had a variety of government jobs in the past, this one pays $160,000 a year, which is probably more than what he earned most recently as president of the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce. The chamber paid him $125,000 in 2016, according to an IRS filing.

While working at the chamber, Thayer expounded at length about cutting government fat and the beauty of the private sector.

“I’m sure the left will criticize my advocacy for wealth creation, screaming the need for more taxes,” Thayer wrote in 2017 when he said Alaska should make a bid to get Jeff Bezos to put a new Amazon HQ in Alaska. He complained that “Alaska’s political hierarchy seems content to let this opportunity pass them by.”

There was no chance and no opportunity to get Amazon to build in Alaska and it was absurd that the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce could claim this as “advocacy for wealth creation.”

Speaking of wealth creation, Thayer had been the commissioner of administration under former Gov. Sean Parnell, an ideal position in which he could have developed a long list of specific budget cuts to make government the right size.

“Everything starts with wrestling our ballooning state spending in line with sustainable revenues,” Thayer wrote three years ago.

“Spending outside the state's constitutional mandates is no longer a luxury Alaska's budget can afford. State services must be prioritized,” he also said. “Efficiencies must be pursued in delivering those services. And services that aren't a function of government must be eliminated.”

My guess is that he will now argue that the Alaska Energy Authority is a luxury the state can afford, as well as a function of government for which there is a hidden constitutional mandate.

In 2018, when Thayer again argued for budget cuts and offered no details, I wrote the following. It remains true today.

The Alaska State Chamber of Commerce has blessed Alaskans with another in an endless series of pleas for budget cuts, without bothering to include any useful advice.

Curtis Thayer, the president of the Chamber of Commerce, who has been in and out of government work for a long time, can't identify $500 million or $1 billion to cut from state spending.

That's because the service cuts would inflict great damage on the Alaska economy. Instead, Thayer offers a poll saying people want budget cuts.

Stop the presses. There will never be a poll in Alaska that reaches any other conclusion when the questions are asked in the vague manner used on the Dittman poll.

Suppose the chamber had polled Alaskans about which departments to close, how much of a pay cut teachers should get, how many schools and schools districts should shut down, how much should be cut from the Alaska State Troopers and the University of Alaska and how much should local property taxes increase?

Had the chamber bothered to ask about real choices, perhaps the answers would contradict the Republican strategy that the way to win elections is to talk about budget cuts in a general way, never offending voters with difficult details and options.

"Alaskans still believe that the road to a balanced budget must be paved with cuts to spending and services," Thayer writes.

Today is a good day to ask Curtis Thayer if the road to a balanced budget is also paved with cuts to spending for repairing bridges on the Glenn Highway. There is a connection between state spending and services.

The Alaska Chamber of Commerce could help its members and everyone in Alaska by showing some courage. It can identify programs and services to eliminate, say what size the Permanent Fund Dividend should be, how much should be drawn from savings and what taxes are needed to keep Alaska in business.

Dermot Cole6 Comments