Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget is flat-out absurd, and so is anyone who tries to justify it as helping Alaska. The opposite is true.
Thousands of jobs will be lost, which means Alaskans will spend millions of dollars less at their local businesses. Schools and the university will be deeply damaged.
Medicaid coverage will be slashed, so tens of thousands of people will lose their health insurance and one of Alaska’s strongest economic drivers — health care — will stagnate.
The list of cuts from the Dunleavy wrecking ball goes on and on. The ferry system. Childcare. School construction. Assistance for low-income seniors. Yet I believe the biggest damage is not found in specific numbers. It is instead the realization that Alaska just began a grim backwards march.
Gone is the vision of a growing, diversified economy that can weather the storm of declining oil production. Civic pride in helping build Alaska has given way to dividend-only selfishness. Building Alaska? People, we will not be building anything big over the next four years. Under the governor’s budget we won’t even repair our schools.
Lost is the goal of K-12 excellence and a university system that attracts and keeps our brightest students. Dunleavy just said he will be happy if Alaska students can at least understand algebra. What if President Kennedy said we didn’t really need to go to the moon, but that a long drive to Gary, Indiana, would be just fine?
What about Alaska as a potential landing place for high-tech companies wanting to invest? With our education system crippled and state and municipal bond ratings sure to falter, forget it.
At best, we will spend the next four years fighting the governor to a standstill, hoping to minimize the damage and maintain some hope for a better future. At worst, too many state and local elected leaders will dance along to the cuts-at-any-cost drumbeat. If that happens, it will take a generation to restore any forward-looking vision of Alaska.
Telling people only what they want to hear and omitting the rest of the story is not political leadership. Does Alaska have a revenue-vs.-spending problem? Yes, and with some courage it can be fixed. If you view the Permanent Fund in its most basic terms we have $65 billion in the bank. At the same time, we have the lowest tax burden of all 50 states.
The Medicaid expansion he wants to torpedo? Forty-some thousand more Alaskans are now getting health insurance and the federal government is picking up 93 percent of the cost this year. The federal share will never be less than 90 percent. I’ve never heard Dunleavy share that fact.
The governor’s assertion that such devastating budgets cuts are necessary in Alaska is akin to claiming there’s a national emergency to justify a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. In both cases, an extremist’s view of good politics for him and his base is somehow being twisted and explained away as good policy.
Alaskans, we just made an election mistake of colossal proportions. We cannot make that mistake again.
That goes for every local, state and federal elected leader in Alaska. If they try to tell you Dunleavy’s budget is somehow justified, tell them you’ll be working as hard as you can to vote them out of office.
Tell them you’ll support good policy and true leadership, but not this nonsense.
• Bruce Scandling moved to Juneau in 1982 as an Empire reporter. He later worked on health and education policy for Gov. Tony Knowles and U.S. Sen. Mark Begich. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.