The country is anticipating a blue tsunami this November that supposedly will wash from sea to EPA regulated sea. Faced with almost certain success the Democrats find themselves in a bit of a quandary. How can we screw this up? Well, fear not America. Like the t-shirt says: “Don’t worry: I’m from Alaska. I got this.“
Let’s be honest. Even under the best of circumstances, Democrats in Alaska face some pretty deep snow, but we do manage to keep ourselves somewhat relevant and even win the governors race from time to time. So, while current Governor Walker used to be a Republican, and he did run as an Independent, Democrats will still take credit for a win. After all he was running against a Republican so that’s one for our side.
The problem was that Governor Walker faced crashing oil prices and anyone who has lived in the state for more than 15 minutes knows this state runs on oil money. We had a five billion dollar budget with a four billion dollar deficit. Fortunately we also had a large savings account and a fat, juicy permanent fund. Walker’s solution was to cut spending, implement taxes and tap the permanent fund. Under his administration we have reduced spending about 40 percent and cut the PFD in half. That still left about a billion dollar shortfall which should have been covered by taxes, but the legislature didn’t have the stomach for that so the budget reserve managed to fill the gap. So everyone’s happy; right? Did I mention that PFD halving?
There are certain things you don’t do in Alaska. You don’t pet the baby moose, you don’t go skinny dipping in January, and you don’t mess with the PFD! Needless to say Walker’s actions didn’t earn him many friends. However it was, in my opinion, something that had to be done. We were faced with a fiscal calamity for which there was no easy solution. Had the legislature possessed the gumption to levy taxes on the oil companies (taxes they had paid under Palin), and implemented an income tax with a sizable deduction, the PFD thing would have been a little easier to swallow. But our fearless lawmakers on the red side of the aisle saw an opportunity to leave this whole steaming pile of fiscal muck at the governor’s door. And that’s just what they did.
Now, Governor Walker’s chances for reelection aren’t looking too promising. Enter Mark Begich. He certainly has the pedigree. Ex-mayor of Anchorage. One term national senator. The guy seems to be able to win elections and, as you probably already know, Begich won the Democratic primary. So let’s put him up against the Republican nominee, Mike Dunleavy, and see how things turn out.
As you probably also know Governor Walker is not going kindly into that political night. He has decided, once again, to run as an Independent. We now have a three way race, and that almost certainly puts Dunleavy at the top of the heap. See, I told you we’d find a way to foul this up. I’m reminded of one of my favorite quotes by Will Rogers: “I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat.”
So, what do you suppose a Dunleavy governorship will be like. Let’s have a look at where he stands on issues that will be facing the state. Actually, let’s take a look at the biggest issue. The one that dominated the Walker administration, the budget.
Dunleavy wants to make deeper budget cuts so he can restore the full PFD to all of us. What a gallant stand. Give people a bigger PFD check at the expense of roads, education, and health services. Now, that’s what I call redistribution of wealth.
According to a 2017 Juneau Empire article by James Brooks, Dunleavy was instrumental in pushing legislation that would have cut $50 million dollars from the Department of Health and Social Services. It would have cut $22 million from the University of Alaska and left our ferry system with a $40 million dollar hole to plug.
This bill would have also cut $69 million from public education. It would have done away with the scholarship program for high performing students and eliminated curriculum reviews. Sure, let’s cut a little deeper. We don’t really need doors on classrooms. Do we? And as long as we’re doing away with doors, show me in the Constitution where it says kids need desks. Sitting on the floor will toughen em’ up. Fortunately, the bill didn’t get past the House.
So there we have it. Senator Dunleavy offers no real solutions. He’s just telling people what they want to hear and putting the state in an untenable situation. On the other hand, the Democrats answer is to form a circular firing squad. Granted, it’s not much of a circle with only two shooters, but I’m pretty sure not even Democrats can screw up the inevitable this time.