It’s refreshing to find a politician who follows through on his campaign promises. It’s even more rare to find one who says what he means and means what he says. Even in the face of intense opposition, Gov. Mike Dunleavy has stood tall in his roadshows to clearly explain our fiscal crisis and how we can fix it. I’m the kind of person who likes to do research before reacting and to get the story straight from the source. The AFP event at Everett’s in Wasilla gave me an opportunity to hear the governor speak for himself. Here’s my takeaway.
The meeting was open, transparent, inclusive and straightforward. Gov. Dunleavy spoke clearly about our fiscal situation. He gave us the facts about where we’ve been with our budget, where we are now, and where we are heading if we don’t do things differently. The governor’s approach is to find the inefficiencies, duplication and wasteful areas that can be reduced. He wants us to right-size our state government and make it more efficient.
Regardless of how you feel about the governor’s proposed budget, the numbers cannot be disputed. Since 2006 we have grown our state government by more than twice the rate of population and inflation.
We have a $1.6 billion deficit and we have spent $14 billion from of our savings. If we continue to spend at this rate, we will run out of savings in 14 months.
Some of the questions asked were related to taxes and why we cannot just raise revenue to fill the gap, but Gov. Dunleavy did a great job explaining that our problem is not just a revenue issue. To make up the difference we would need a 16% sales tax. If we established an income tax, every working person in Alaska would pay over $5,000 a year. He also made the great point that taxing the oil companies (the industry that is responsible for 93% of the revenue we collect) will drive them out of the state because they can extract oil from anywhere in the world. Most importantly, he explained that every time we get more revenue, we just grow the budget at an unsustainable rate.
The governor also reminded us that legislators can confiscate part, or all, of our PFD to fill the gap. They have proven that they are willing to do this in the past and the House Majority has stated that they will do it again. But this is only a temporary, one-year fix to our budget problems, and just kicks the can down the road while continuing to harm the private economy.
The governor wants the people of Alaska to be part of the discussion and part of the solution. He has proposed three amendments to the State Constitution; a spending cap and a savings plan, no new taxes or changes to how we tax without a vote of the people and Legislature, and protecting the original calculation of the PFD so that it can only be changed by a vote of the people. The reasoning behind these proposals is very logical and hard to dispute considering the facts.
Gov. Dunleavy makes an excellent point when he says that if legislators trust the people who vote for them, they should also trust that they will make the right decision on his proposed constitutional amendments.
It was clear to me after listening to Gov. Dunleavy speak and his administration answer questions that we need to balance our revenues with expenditures like most household do without taking money from the private sector. It’s called living within your means. It is also clear that the governor’s three constitutional amendments are necessary to keep us from making the same mistakes that we have in the past. I am thankful that we have a governor who has a plan and the courage to act on it.
— John Miller, Mat-Su Valley resident since 1975