What is the right size of government for Alaska? Who knows? What I do know is that we all need something from government from time to time. Be it roads or airports or education or health care assistance or police protection. We may not all need the same things, and we may not need them all or in the same places, but we all need and use something from government from time to time. Government is for everyone and government services are for all of us. Those services are meant to support the needs of all Alaskans as equitably as possible. Government is about people, not numbers. Changing government, either making it larger or smaller, requires a plan — and analyses that include information about who will be impacted and how.
Gov. Dunleavy has no plan.
The state of Alaska’s oil production began in 1959. By 1978, 90% of Alaska’s revenues were coming from the sale of crude oil. The production of crude oil continued to rise until 1988, when production started a slow decline, which has continued, and today our oil production is 25% of the 1988 level. This decline demonstrates what the framers of our Alaska Permanent Fund knew in 1976: that our oil resources are nonrenewable. Armed with that knowledge, the following statement was printed in the 1976 Alaska State Election Pamphlet: “Today as the result of anticipated oil and gas revenues, Alaska stands on the brink of unprecedented prosperity. No one, but no one, argues that these nonrenewable resources will last but for a few decades. Similarly, no one should fail to recognize that in those years ahead the cost of state government will continue to spiral upwards. Now is the time to ask ourselves the question: When the oil and gas is depleted, where will the funds to feed our giant government come from? The answer: the permanent fund.”
Modern economies function in concert with supportive, efficient and properly funded government services and are built in part on the well planned, designed, constructed and maintained public goods government provides. Education, communication, transportation — these are key underpinning components to economic activity, and all are funded through government or supported by government services. No successful economy in the world exists without them.
This discussion should not be about if we want a dividend instead of adequate and effective public goods and services. A dividend does little to support you or your family if you do not have a job. Would you really trade the education of your children for a dividend? Call the governor and let him know you do not need a handout, that you need a job. And call the Legislature and tell them to vote to override the governor’s vetoes, because you and your kids and generations of Alaskans to come need a dynamic and growing economy, not a renewed recession and a one or two-time double dividend.
Jim Dodson is president and CEO of Fairbanks Economic Development Corp., 2019 University of Alaska Fairbanks Business Leader of the Year, and a lifelong Alaskan.