Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer said “don’t be too upset” at Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget butchery. Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, takes the slow roll “step down” to the same cuts strategy. Don’t believe either of them. Their job is to get you to back off and be calm. Your loss, their gain.
The budget is the ultimate expression of any commitment to your needs. Lack of funding and underfunding means their words are hollow. It’s not about how much money is really available, it’s who it is spent on that counts much more. If you chill out as they want, your needs will be funded last. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, not the silent one.
Dunleavy has no problem with $1 billion for oil company credits with more state debt, but can’t find one-tenth that amount ($97 million) to keep the Alaska Marine Highway System viable. He’d rather destroy it. Then in the future, propose some government subsidized socialist type funding for privatized for-profit carriers. That’s the way crony capitalism works.
There is a viable budget middle ground between the PFD and public funding needs. Choices do have to be made, and not all needs will be fulfilled. But there is no reason for this ideological savage budget butchery other than setting Alaskans against each other. That’s what politicians do best.
To claim that Dunleavy is only following through on campaign promises that were unrealistic and blatantly opportunistic as to their viability when made is irresponsible nonsense. Alaskans need workable choices, not dog whistle call outs that work only to destroy the collective fabric of our state.
ConocoPhillips and the oil industry, Meyer’s former employer, and lobbyists have priority in directing legislator drones, not the public at a meeting, no matter how packed. Meyer is here to protect billions in credits for oil companies at the expense of Alaskans. He shepherded these through as a senator when he was a ConocoPhilips employee.
Stedman was the legislative godfather (along with the Gov. Frank Murkowski administration) who insisted upon the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS) and Teachers’ Retirement System (TRS) Defined Contribution plans. The Murkowski administration and the GOP squandered their precious limited political capital on their jihad converting the retirement system, which didn’t really solve the problem. Then they had no political capital left for an oil and gas line that clearly was a more important priority in 2005 and is still so 14 years later.
At the time, the Division of Retirement and Benefits held a yearlong series of member meetings to look into various alternative plans, which was little more than an elaborate sham that was always going to end in a defined contribution tier and the removal of the elected employee board. It served its purpose: To calm the plan members, while the elected board thought they were working on a balanced viable solution.
A few days before the legislative session was to end, the Stedman/GOP-Murkowski crew rammed through their new defined contribution plan simply ignoring the prior process. They fired the board, put political appointees in charge and subjected employee appeals to a new hearings process they controlled. The employee representatives were completely outmaneuvered by their mostly calm complacency.
The real objective was to move the system to the corporate 401(k) model so Wall Street, bankers and private financiers could more directly and handsomely profit from such plans. Were the Stedman/Murkowski administration tactics and strategy unusual or possibly illegal? Not at all. That’s how the world actually works. Forget the childish civics lessons about fair play and good faith dealing.
As Alaska’s oil and gas tax resource revenue process shows, professional ethics or public-first policy has nothing to do with it. Follow the money, connect the dots. Only your own zealous advocacy, persistent if annoying attention, and skepticism about slick phony unreliable explanations, promises and agendas that don’t add up, count.
I repeat: never let Dunleavy, Meyer and the entire Alaska Legislature rest for a moment. That includes Republicans and Democrats, Alaska Native and non-Native. You and your family’s future depends on it.
• Anselm Staack is registered nonaffiliated, is a Certified Public Accountant and an attorney who has been an Alaska resident for over 45 years. He was the Treasury Comptroller for Alaska under Gov. Jay Hammond and worked directly on the creation of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation. He resides in Juneau.