News-Miner opinion: People power. It apparently works. The latest evidence to support this observation is Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s recent reversals of several of his line-item vetoes, particularly his decision to give up on his veto of $130 million from the University of Alaska this year in favor of a reduction of about half that over three years.
Should the governor get credit for backing off on some of his reductions? Yes, to a degree. The decisions, despite how the administration is presenting them, are most likely a response to the rising effort to recall the governor from office less than a year into his four-year term.
Leaders of the recall effort announced Thursday that they had obtained more than enough signatures to clear the first hurdle, allowing them to request the official petitions to gain an even larger number of signatures to put the recall on the ballot.
Has the recall affected the governor’s decision-making? You decide.
The governor now says that he made the vetoes in order to start a conversation among Alaskans about what they want from their government. But we’ve been having that conversation for several years; it began in earnest under Gov. Dunleavy’s predecessor, Bill Walker.
Does a politician deserve credit for reversing course? Again, you decide.
A politician’s decision to reverse course isn’t made without a political cost-benefit analysis. That holds true whether the person is a city council member or a governor. Supporters of the original decision will be unhappy at a reversal. They may think they can no longer trust that elected official on other matters. They may begin to question the official’s convictions and suspect that reelection is more important than principle.
Those who benefit from the reversal, while delighted at the change, possibly will see it not as a change in principle by the elected official but as the result of public pressure — and a desire to be reelected.
The bottom line is that reversals such as those by Gov. Dunleavy on funding for the university, pre-K education, the Senior Benefits Payment Program, the Alaska Legal Services Corp. and, on Friday, two more education-related programs have come about because Alaskans have spoken out, whether through the recall effort or through other means. The governor stated as much in an announcement Friday about the two latest reversals:
“Like funds restored earlier in the week for Head Start, Early Childhood Grants and other early learning programs, these decisions were made after significant input from Alaskans,” the governor stated.
It could be that the governor now realizes he received bad advice from his temporary budget director, Donna Arduin.
Alaskans won’t know for certain what prompted the governor to relent.
What we do know for certain, however, is that Gov. Dunleavy, through his stark budget proposal and his vetoes in the more reasonable budget the Legislature approved, managed to stir Alaskans to action. And that is how democracy works.