Community Perspective

Alaskans need to reject Gov. Dunleavy’s vision 

I hope the recall effort will convince Gov. Mike Dunleavy to change course. I don’t want Alaska to go through a recall. But even more I don’t want the governor to continue his authoritarian ways. They are bad for our state and bad for democracy.

Consider two recent editorials by our state’s leading newspapers.

On Aug. 3, the Anchorage Daily News pointed out how Gov. Dunleavy, in a series of moves, has been “testing the limits of his power, seeking to consolidate and expand that power where possible.”

The Daily News editorial detailed several moves made by the governor and his team:

• Demanding a loyalty oath from several hundred state employees during Dunleavy’s transition to office.

• Moving the budget directors from each state agency into the Office of Management and Budget, where those directors are more directly under the governor’s control.

• Refusing to release funds for K-12 education from the Legislature’s forward-funding plan.

• Using massive vetoes to slash the budget submitted by the Legislature and basically redraw it back to Dunleavy’s own vision.

• Calling for the second legislative special session to be held in Wasilla, Dunleavy’s political stronghold.

• Vetoing $334,700 from the Alaska Court System because Dunleavy didn’t agree with a ruling by the Alaska Supreme Court on abortion funding.

Read the Daily News editorial here:

On Aug. 4, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner described how “Gov. Mike Dunleavy is clearly trying to shape the University of Alaska to something of his liking.”

“That’s not how our system of government in Alaska is supposed to work,” the editorial states. It goes on to explain how the authors of the Alaska Constitution viewed the university “as a separate entity” from the executive branch.

Read the News-Miner editorial here:

Gov. Dunleavy is clearly trying to use any means (some legal, some questionable) to force his vision on Alaska. Some people agree with him, but the majority clearly do not. Just look at the fast-growing number of recall petition signers.

The governor does have a point. We can’t continue on the fiscal road we’ve been on. But we don’t have to make immediate drastic changes. The Legislature has already been making spending reductions. Calls for new or increased taxes have been discussed. The amount of the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend is being battled over. The process is messy, but that’s democracy. It’s hard to get a bunch of diverse people to agree. Authoritarianism is much cleaner, but it’s not democracy. It’s a minority forcing its will on the majority.

Some argue that Dunleavy’s election proves that the majority of people agree with him. But there’s one huge problem. While candidate Dunleavy campaigned on balancing the budget, he also promised painless state budget cuts. Remember? Cutting the so-called 2,000 vacant state positions, consolidating municipal health insurance programs, making Medicaid more efficient, cutting a fast-rail study, eliminating climatologists. And, of course, he also promised a full PFD. Painless cuts and a bigger PFD? It’s no surprise he was elected.

I doubt he would have been elected if he said what he really had in mind: drastic cuts to state services people rely on, huge fee increases at the Pioneers’ Homes, trying to take the property tax revenue that local governments get from the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

After being elected, Gov. Dunleavy claimed he made his campaign promises based on oil being a certain price, but then he got into office and oil prices were lower. If he truly doesn’t understand that oil prices are volatile, he is not competent to be governor, but I don’t think that’s what happened.

Gov. Dunleavy knows what he is doing. He had a vision about the type of government Alaska should have versus the one we currently have. It seems clear he believes in a skeleton government with most services privatized. There is nothing inherently wrong with that type of government, but that’s not what most Alaskans want.

The governor got into office under false pretenses. Now he is trying to amass power to force his vision on Alaska. He tries to garner support from the people by continuing to demand a full PFD, no matter the consequences. The PFD is a great lever for a strongman, and Dunleavy is using it well.

I hope Gov. Dunleavy sees the writing on the wall and moderates his stance. But if not, Alaskans need to reject his power grab. This is a democracy. The will of the people needs to be respected. Please consider helping the recall effort to keep pressure on the governor:

Eric Troyer is a writer living in Fairbanks.


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