Republican Party wants Alaska amnesia about every Dunleavy budget promise

While running for governor, Mike Dunleavy said over and over again that the state could have a sustainable budget of close to $4 billion to $4.3 billion a year, which could grow at 2 percent a year. He said the state could get there with painless cuts of $450 million or so.

He promised he would not cut the ferry system, education spending or the University of Alaska. He promised to spend more on rural education and repeatedly stressed that budget cuts would be aimed at making everything more efficient.

I keep bringing this up because the Dunleavy administration and the Republican Party keep pushing the falsehood that he never made those promises—recasting the campaign as one that was all about telling Alaskans to expect the elimination of the state ferry system, giant budget cuts to K-12 schools and the University of Alaska and the confiscation of local property taxes.

The state’s news organizations have been reluctant to point out that Dunleavy lied to the public.

“What Alaskans heard during the gubernatorial election was we must reduce our spending to the amount of revenue coming in," Senate President Cathy Giessel said in a video to Alaskans, defending Dunleavy’s approach.

“This is what it looks like to have a budget that matches the amount of money coming in. People are shocked by this,” she said.

Giessel is correct in part. People are shocked by this.

She’s wrong, however, to say the governor campaigned on matching expenditures to revenue. That theme was invented after the election.

As a friend pointed out, his campaign signs didn’t say “Expenditures must equal revenues,” they promoted him as the champion of the Permanent Fund Dividend.

Before the election, Alaskans heard promises from Dunleavy for bigger dividends, no taxes and no reductions in services. It was all too good to be true.

Dunleavy told a public radio audience in September: “What we need to do is make sure that we get the budget down somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 billion and then that, if we do that, we could sustain a budget growing at about $70, $80 million a year.”

In August, he told the Anchorage Daily News, “If we can contain the size of the operating budget, contain its growth — again to 2 percent a year — we could grow ourselves out of this.”

On Facebook, he was promoted as “Politicians Fear Dunleavy.” He claimed that a cap on spending would allow the state to move forward and that “several hundred thousand” barrels of new oil would be in the pipeline in five to seven years.

He falsely claimed the state had 2,000 funded but unfilled jobs and that $200 million could be diverted and spent on Troopers, the courts, etc.

On Oct. 24, he told the state Chamber of Commerce that he would cut the $4.5 million commuter rail study. That study could not be cut because it was never approved.

In August, he told the Daily News-Miner, “I do not have a specific program I would like to reduce or eliminate.”

On Oct. 25, in a debate sponsored by KTUU and Alaska Public Media, Dunleavy was asked to name one specific budget cut.

He didn’t provide a specific, leading to this follow-up question: :”But again, be more specific. Name one thing that you would cut from the budget.”

Dunleavy fell back on the usual suspects: “$4.5 million fast rail study from Mat-Su to Anchorage, I would eliminate that. I would look at eliminating climatologists. We have over 2,000 funded but unfilled positions in state government. I would look at those positions to see what positions and what funding we could move to other parts of government to reduce the size of government.”

He forgot to mention cutting hundreds of millions from education, shutting down the ferry system and reducing Medicaid spending by $711 million, much of that in federal funds the state would no longer qualify for under the Dunleavy plan.

Dermot Cole6 Comments