The point of this column is to talk about change. The kind of changes that might lead us back to a healthy state government that is prosperous and effective. The present state government approach pursued by Governor Dunleavy and Republicans is to cut state government spending on our constitutionally mandated responsibilities like public health, public education, public infrastructure and, most importantly, our commonly owned natural resources.
Dunleavy’s plan is to hold taxes low on corporations (especially oil) but then build more infrastructure at state resident expense like the Ambler Road for the big mining corporations. Then we can all wait for the payoff in 10 or 20 years and for our full $3,200 permanent fund dividend.
That will never happen, and in the meantime our residents, resources and economy all suffer.
Essential, constitutionally mandated state services are being destroyed because of the drastic budget cuts initiated by the governor and supported by his in-pocket Republican legislators. These are the public services and departments that we rely on and include the University of Alaska campuses, the Department of Transportation, Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Fish and Game, and the Department of Health and Social Services. Dunleavy and Republicans have heaped massive cuts on the department budgets. Is this really what you want?
Dunleavy vetoed $444 million from the state operating budget, $50 million from Medicaid, $30 million from K-12 education and $130 million from university system. He almost ended our state marine highway system, thereby isolating the complete panhandle of Alaska.
The list goes on. He reneged on the state’s commitment to partially fund our school bonds and tried to confiscate our property tax revenue from the pipeline. He is giving away our resources at fire sale prices to the big corporations. We all know that he has family ties to Big Oil and only got elected through money from his family and the biggest lie of the century that he was going to pay the full PFD and back shortages presumably by magic.
Let’s face reality. Oil prices are not going up any time soon. However, it may happen some many years from now. So, why be in a hurry to deplete the resources by giving them away now?
One thing I learned in my career as a local business owner was that when bad times come, you make lemonade from the lemons. You change strategy and adapt to the new environment by concentrating on your strengths and pulling back from the old that does not work anymore.
Our strengths are our natural resources and our northern climate expertise. We have world-class wild and scenic destinations, unique wildlife with hunting and fishing opportunities and the diversity of cultures and ways of life that are inspiring. These are our renewable strengths. This pandemic will be gone much sooner than the return of any oil prices.
We need revenue and we need it now. Now is the perfect time to enact some smart tax planning. Like a broad-based income tax that will finally collect on the nonresident workers and corporation profits that fly south after every shift.
How about a boost in the gas tax to help collect from all those big motor homes that will come each summer? And here is the big moneymaker that makes the most sense. The oil interests are spending millions trying to scare you into continuing to pay them to take our resources through tax breaks and infrastructure support, with the promise of jobs as the carrot. We are not asking them to pay more than they were before. We are just trying to stop an idea that never worked and cost us millions in lost revenue.
Our state Constitution put the highest priority on our government protecting our valuable natural resources for all Alaska residents. I beg you. Vote yes on Ballot Measure 1 in November and stop listening to the oil company propaganda. They are doing what they always do: promoting their own selfish interests.
We need progress toward a progressive future that includes alternative energy, real global warming progress and that does include higher taxes. If we embrace these ideas, new and better jobs will develop as has happened in California and elsewhere. Our university system will help us lead the way and train our future generation.
The oil industry for too long has treated us like the “old company towns” of the past. Do not just walk but run to the nearest Dunleavy recall petition and sign. It is your state. Own It. These are your natural resources. Own them, cherish them, and do not just give them away.
Ed Linkous lives in Fairbanks. He served on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly from 1987 to 1989.