Former AG misrepresents Dunleavy's actual campaign promises
Former Attorney General Craig Richards, now under contract to fight the recall of Gov. Mike Dunleavy, says the statewide campaign to remove the governor from office is all about opposition to Dunleavy making the tough decisions that he promised as a candidate.
That’s not true.
Last fall, when Richards endorsed Dunleavy, he was being more than charitable when he wrote this about Dunleavy’s fiscal fantasy: “Rather than immediately reducing the dividend and adopting taxes, Dunleavy indicates his plan is designed to rebuild the people's trust. He intends to do that by reducing the operating budget through spending cuts. He has not identified all the cuts he will make or the total magnitude, instead committing to delve deeply into the effort once in office.”
That vague language may have been what Richards thought Dunleavy should have said to cover himself, a general meaningless statement about the beauty of budget cuts with no specifics and no accountability.
But Dunleavy did identify the cuts during his campaign that he said he would make if he won the election, up to $504 million and change.
He said he would cut the $4.5 million plan to study commuter rail service from Mat-Su to Anchorage. (The money was not cut because it had never been approved, though he repeated this on a daily basis.)
His biggest promise was to cut the $200 million that he falsely claimed was hidden in the budget for 2,000 unfilled ghost state jobs. There were never 2,000 ghost jobs, though Dunleavy repeated the claim throughout his campaign.
In addition, he claimed the state could save $100 million with a voluntary plan to consolidate school district health care plans and that making Medicaid more efficient would save up to $150 million. On some occasions, he said the voluntary insurance plan would save up to $150 million.
"So between those three moves with no cuts at all you're looking at potentially $400 million plus, $200 million in the vacancy factor issue, $100 million in the health insurance and the $150 million in efficiencies, just in those three areas," Dunleavy said last September.
Dunleavy said the budget would be balanced in no time through those painless budget cuts and oil production would increase by hundreds of thousands of barrels per day in the next few years, fixing everything.
Dunleavy also was specific about items he would not cut, including the ferry system, public schools, the University of Alaska, the Pioneers Home, the court system, the prison system, state Troopers and Power Cost Equalization. On some occasions, he promised to increase spending on education, the courts, Troopers and prosecutors.
In a column published in the Anchorage Daily News Wednesday in which Richards said he has been retained to offer anti-recall legal assistance to a campaign group, the former AG says Dunleavy is facing a recall because some people are dissatisfied with the election results from a year ago and “Dunleavy aggressively tried to cut government spending, which displeased those affected by the cuts.”
That’s not an accurate summation. He’s leaving out the bait-and-switch nature of the entire operation.
Dunleavy didn’t campaign on any of the budget cuts that he announced in February, cuts he kept pushing until the recall campaign had gained enough momentum by August to force him to back off on $150 million of them.
He didn’t campaign on depriving poor people of health insurance by cutting $761 million from Medicaid, a proposal that could cause hardship across the state and cost 8,000 to 10,000 jobs. He didn’t campaign on ending dental care for poor adults on Medicaid or ending Head Start grants.
He didn’t campaign on wiping out public broadcasting or getting rid of the state ferry system, closing major campuses of the University of Alaska or laying off thousands of teachers in K-12 schools.
He didn’t campaign on depriving communities of property tax revenue linked to oil and gas or abolishing the state arts council. He didn’t campaign on ending the senior citizen cash assistance program for the poor or stopping pre-K programs.
Had he mentioned his plans to cut ferries in Southeast a year ago, he would have lost a great deal of support. Had he mentioned his plans to set the University of Alaska back 40 years, he would have been hit hard in Fairbanks. Had he mentioned his plan to confiscate property taxes from oil and gas facilities, Valdez would have had no time for him.
Dunleavy said later the reason he never mentioned any real cuts during his campaign was because oil was selling for $75 or $85 a year ago. Perhaps he conned himself into thinking that it would forever be $75 a barrel, justifying his lack of budget candor and/or planning.
In the end, he conned Alaskans with happy talk about the Permanent Fund Dividend, never acknowledging that the real fiscal challenge facing Alaska is how to manage difficult tradeoffs.