$1,600? $981? $3,000? A university or no university? Arts or no arts? Social services or no social services? Heat or no heat? Fairbanks or the Mat-Su?
Have we really come to this? Have we Alaskans really come down to this? We, the same people who stop for our neighbors on the road on a cold day. We, the same people who wear the Alaska flag as proudly as we wear our own nation’s flag. We, the same people who relish the fact that not all roads go to all places or that the only road that gets here is a long 3,000-mile link to the chaos of the Outside. We, whose children have learned to love the mountains, the tundra and our unique diversity of culture but also understand that we all benefit from our natural resources. We, the same people who play in 30 below, climb mountains, fish impossible rivers and trek across the state because we can. We, the same people who scoff at anyone from anywhere else because we are of here.
But we are here, in this conversation, not because of Alaska values. We are here, pitted against each other because we are manipulated by someone else’s values, someone else’s plan.
The Office of Management and Budget director put in place when Gov. Mike Dunleavy took office is not an Alaskan, nor will she be. Donna Arduin has stated so much in multiple interviews, expressing that she “can leave when her job is done.” What is that job? It’s a simple formula that she and her group — Arduin, Laffer and Moore Econometrics — promoted across the country.
The formula goes like this: 1. Pick a divisive issue to divide the population; 2. Promise money not attainable; 3. Separate the House and Senate coalitions dealing with the public infighting; 4. Remove all state agency leads/commissioners from the budget process, thereby removing the ability for the Legislature to get any information; 5. Make the cuts and leave.
The formula worked — once, in Florida. In Kansas, Illinois, Michigan, California and Wisconsin the results were a decline in each state’s fiscal rating, increased deficits, and, in the end, tax increases to overcome the deficits.
Alaska is different. We are not Florida, Kansas, Illinois, Michigan, California or Wisconsin. We are beautiful, fragile, young and full of potential. Arduin’s formula has no place here. Our fiscal future is a story yet to be written, not a political platform to tame. We can write our own future. We are intelligent. We invest in our future. We invite our children to go to trade schools and college here and improve our state. We invest in our people. We do not cast hate.
And we never had $3,000 to give away in the PFD. It would mean putting the permanent fund earnings reserve in peril. You all know this. It was the first red herring. We should have all paid attention then. The second was the cuts for the ferry system. When you’re not from Alaska, they simply look like boats.
We need our state back. We need a united Legislature. We need to keep our politics as our politics. We need to ask our own people to find the path to our future. We can and we will, but we need our legislators to act first. We are asking, begging, that they take back their constitutional duty as a body of government to allocate funds for the benefit of all Alaskans. If Ms. Arduin is such a budget genius, she can stay in her position if she can work for us rather than for some Outside entity.
So job one for legislators: Unify. Help your Mat-Su colleagues, whose constituents have been the biggest pawns in Ms. Ardiun’s plan. Give them cover and hold your position. The budget you approved and sent to the governor was sound.
Mostly, just get our state back. We are all still here and we will all help find our future.
Michelle Ethun lives in Two Rivers.