While Legislature prepares to reject Dunleavy budget, severe cuts could arrive via veto
It’s become pretty clear during the last couple of months that most legislators—but not all of them—want to prevent the Dunleavy Disaster.
And right about now many Alaskans may be telling themselves that the ferry system, K-12 schools, the University of Alaska and the health care system will survive because there are legislative alternatives in the works. The House made some cuts to the current level of state spending. The Senate will make more. In the end, they will settle on a package that is not the Dunleavy Disaster.
But the governor has veto power and has threatened to hold public services hostage unless he gets his way on constitutional amendments to limit the ability of legislators in the future to change the dividend, raise taxes or maintain services. He wants his stamp on the Alaska Constitution.
It takes a three-quarter vote to override budget vetoes and it is difficult to get that margin on anything except resolutions decrying federal overreach or supporting more federal spending in Alaska.
For those reasons it is important to keep in mind what Dunleavy has said he wants to do to public services in Alaska. Just because the Legislature won’t go along with his cuts doesn’t mean they won’t be enacted via the line-item veto route.
For two months Dunleavy has been repeating the same half-truths and misleading claims about the budget, which is being charitable to a guy who campaigned on no cuts to public services. He has not tried to defend his proposed reductions beyond saying, “$1.6 billion deficit” at every opportunity, as if that is a magical incantation that ends all debate.
The deficit number he has chosen as his mantra is a result of his policy choices, though he has tried to con Alaskans into thinking it is an exact calculation over which he has no control, as precise as the amount of milk in a gallon.
Dunleavy doesn’t want to talk about taxes, so he doesn’t. He doesn’t want to talk about the impacts of his proposed budget cuts, so he doesn’t. He doesn’t want to talk about real options and tradeoffs, so he doesn’t.
Dunleavy’s budget script hasn’t changed, although his overly simplistic arguments about the ferry system, K-12 schools, the University of Alaska and Medicaid don’t hold up under critical examination.
The constant repetition of nonsense does nothing to turn it into something other than nonsense.