Dunleavy leaders stonewall on ‘honest’ budget analysis

If you have the time for it, watch the video below in which Revenue Commissioner Bruce Tangeman, state economist Ed King and temporary budget director Donna Arduin tell Juneau reporters why they failed to conduct an economic analysis of the impacts of the so-called “honest budget” proposed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

They don’t want to draw attention to the proposed elimination of thousands of jobs across Alaska, so they will avoid the subject as long as possible.

It is an irresponsible approach and one that contradicts what the budget director told the Senate Finance Committee on Feb. 14.

On that day, Sen. Bill Wielechowski asked if any analysis had been done before Arduin and Co. decided to propose to eliminate the ferry system, gut the University of Alaska, slash Medicaid spending and cut one-quarter of education funding.

He asked if Arduin had compiled any job loss numbers or estimates of what a doubling of university tuition would mean.

“Has your office done any analysis at all of the impacts of the cuts on Alaskans, on families, on small businesses? Have you done any sort of analysis at all? Anything?”

He also asked if any of the analysis had been done before the budget was released. She replied, “When the economist is here he will present the analysis that he has available.”

Maybe that was a cagey way of saying that there was no analysis, but the economist appeared before legislative committees this week with little in the way of analysis.

King said there is no way anyone can say exactly what would happen. Well, sure. You don’t have to be an economist to know that.

The tactic described by Tangeman below is to wait until the Legislature comes up with an alternative budget before providing Alaskans with the information they should have already received from the Dunleavy administration.

“The governor has put a proposal on the table; we’re seeing a lot of theoretical ‘if-thens’ being bounced back at us,” Tangeman said. “Good questions, but you can’t really analyze ‘if-thens’ until an actual proposal is put back on the table.”

“So we’re expecting to see a counter-proposal, if you will, from the Legislature. That’s their job. The governor puts a budget on the table. Legislature analyzes it and they put their own proposal on the table. Ultimately when we get to that point, then we’ll be able to do more economic analysis on their proposal and then we can start comparing the two options.”

Tangeman is leaving out the part where the administration proposing the largest budget cuts in state history is supposed to do its job and provide solid information to Alaskans about what jobs would likely be cut and what is likely to happen with class sizes in schools, the rate of local taxation, whether towns in Southeast Alaska will survive and a dozen more issues.

It is not an “if-then” matter to ask the Dunleavy budget office to justify its proposals. I suspect the real reluctance is the understanding that Alaskans will be even more upset than they are now when the full scope of the disaster is clarified.

It appears the Dunleavy approach to the Legislature is to stonewall as long as possible on the economic impacts, while surrogates spout anti-government ideology and call it good.

Dermot Cole3 Comments