David Teal, then-director of Legislative Finance, gives an overview of the state’s fiscal situation to the Senate Finance Committee at the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)

David Teal, then-director of Legislative Finance, gives an overview of the state’s fiscal situation to the Senate Finance Committee at the Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: Alaska can’t afford four more years of a governor who lives in an alternate reality

A spike in oil prices does not change our long-term fiscal reality.

  • By David Teal
  • Tuesday, May 10, 2022 10:51am
  • Opinion

By David Teal

For the past four years, Alaskans have listened to our current governor promote an alternate reality in which distributing massive dividends to the people has no negative consequences. Unfortunately, paying too much in dividends really does have detrimental impacts.

Current high oil prices lead some to conclude that there is plenty of money for mega-dividends, both now and in the future. Those of us who have lived through the boom/bust cycles of the past know the current boom will not last forever.

Changing the permanent fund to an endowment structure — thank you, Gov. Bill Walker — gave us a large, stable, sustainable revenue stream that helped eliminate the deficits that plagued us for many years. But like it or not, a spike in oil prices does not change our long-term fiscal reality.

Those of us who understand that big dividends reduce the amount of money available for other purposes are concerned because politicians who campaign next to a large dividend check will leave no choice but to increase taxes or reduce spending on essential services. Like it or not, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled that more money for dividends means less money for government services.

We need a leader who recognizes the truth about our fiscal situation. We need a leader who will tell the truth about our fiscal situation. We need a leader who will fix our fiscal situation. Bill Walker has demonstrated that he understands fiscal reality and will make tough decisions in the best interest of present and future citizens. Let’s put him back in the governor’s chair.

• David Teal is the retired director of the Legislative Finance Division. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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