News coverage of Dunleavy retreat on UA budget elevates spin, ignores substance

The news coverage of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s reversal on the University of Alaska budget continues to focus on the false statements featured in state press releases, while ignoring the substance of the so-called “compact” signed by UA officials under duress.

The so-called compact does not do what Dunleavy claims. It simply says that the University of Alaska agrees that Dunleavy wants to cut the budget in years to come. It does not commit the UA Board of Regents to agreeing with him.

The decision by Alaska news organizations to elevate the press releases—which contain the Dunleavy spin—over the so-called compact, is a mistake. There is no hint in the so-called compact that the regents have to follow Dunleavy’s orders, which is appropriate because the Alaska Constitution says the regents are not subservient to the governor.

With the recall campaign gaining strength, the governor reversed his stand on the UA budget this week, accepting a funding level that is $110 million higher than he accepted June 28. He kept defending that level until the instant he didn’t.

To try to make it appear to be something other than a $110 million change, Dunleavy invented the idea that future cuts in two years will reduce that number by $45 million, forcing the university to either keep quiet or take a $130 million hit right now.

Dunleavy claims to have a three-year agreement with the university for future budget cuts, but that is not true. It’s clear that he forced UA officials to give lip service in press releases and public statements to his imaginary three-year plan.

He can promise to veto whatever he wants, but the growing recall campaign has already shattered the arrogance of the rule-by-veto regime, giving more power to the Legislature and the public..

There is nothing in the so-called compact, which can be read here, that required the UA Board of Regents to seek future budget cuts. The regents haven’t voted on this in public and there is no part in our system for the governor to demand a backroom deal.

As soon as the state budget is signed, the university will be free from the Dunleavy blackmail plan and the regents should begin the task of seeking the funding level UA needs from the Legislature, ignoring the antics of a governor on the run from a recall.

The Dunleavy blackmail attempt, if he decides to continue with it, will do nothing but boost the recall campaign.

Dermot Cole5 Comments