The Alaska Legislature’s 37-1 vote to override Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s reckless, callous and punitive vetoes gives every reasonable person in our state reason for hope. That may seem like a ridiculous statement since the vote fell short of the 45 votes needed to override, but consider this: Close to two-thirds of Alaska’s legislators are opposed to Dunleavy’s self-imposed disaster.
Our Alaska Constitution sets a virtually impossible standard, unlike any other state — 75% — for overriding gubernatorial vetoes of appropriations, which is why we face the worst social, educational, fiscal and humanitarian crisis in the history of the state of Alaska, all caused by a hapless governor who seems to have no idea of the long-term harm he is doing. But whatever happens in the coming days, nearly a supermajority of our senators and representatives understand the reality of the Dunleavy disaster. That is indication enough we will eventually get through this catastrophe one way or another, even as the short-term crisis gets worse. Meanwhile Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer better be getting his inaugural address ready, because the odds of Dunleavy being recalled grow greater by the hour. If the vetoes are not overridden, the reckoning will be fast and furious.
Regardless of the governor’s ultimate fate, the minority legislative dead-end dividenders who rode into Wasilla like it was the Little Bighorn seem willing to go down with George Armstrong Dunleavy, no matter what the cost to Alaska. They have grossly underestimated the anger that Alaskans from all walks of life feel about butchering our public infrastructure. To a person the dead-enders profess to be enthusiastic fans of private enterprise and entrepreneurship, ideological warriors who can’t spell compromise, self-made men and women who want government off their backs. But reading their biographies almost all of these government skeptics have subsisted almost all of their lives on government paychecks, military and civilian. They’ve seemingly all benefited from programs of one kind or another that they are now keen on eliminating by not overriding the vetoes. Hypocrisy is not one of our most appealing human traits.
Mostly this is a political problem caused by the Anchorage-Wasilla axis. The dead-enders are all from Southcentral Alaska and the greater Anchorage area, except for two: Tammie Wilson, of North Pole, and Dave Talerico, of Healy.
Fairbanks should be grateful that our bipartisan and cohesive delegation of Sen. Click Bishop, Sen. John Coghill, Rep. Grier Hopkins, Sen. Scott Kawasaki, Rep. Bart LeBon, Rep. Steve Thompson and Rep. Adam Wool, have shown leadership, pragmatism and common sense to see through the smoke of Dunleavy’s duplicity and work together across party lines. They are the ones standing up for Alaska, not the big man sitting on the third floor of the Capitol and the dead-enders holed-up in Wasilla. Unlike all the rest of our legislators, Wilson and Talerico so far haven’t seen through Dunleavy’s ideological blindness or calculated the cost to Alaska in general, and Interior Alaska in particular, of his irresponsibility.
It’s entirely understandable that average Alaskans often don’t understand the complexities of the cultural, historical and economic realities of Alaska. Usually the less a person knows about a subject, the more certain they are of simple explanations. Look at the comments section on any story in the Daily News-Miner (or this one in particular), and you can see renowned experts using fake names issue infallible proclamations based on 30 seconds of careful research and profound thought. But Wilson and Talerico, who have both been government workers for many years, must know better. They are not internet savants with no responsibilities and nothing to lose. They have studied the budget (hopefully) and attended the hearings (hopefully), and know the cost of what these huge cuts mean. Wilson has the most explaining to do. A member of the House bipartisan majority, she went to Wasilla before flying to Juneau and was the lone vote in Juneau against overriding the vetoes of the budget for which she had voted.
As of this writing Wilson and Talerico, like the rest of those who didn’t show up in Juneau to override the vetoes, still have time to do the right thing: override the vetoes and stop the elimination of vital public services and the evisceration of the University of Alaska. The failure to do anything less will be a lasting shame.
Terrence Cole is a retired history professor who has written extensively on Alaska history over the past 40 years.