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Governor took half of your dividend, did little else to close budget gap

  • Author: Tuckerman Babcock
    | Opinion
  • Updated: September 30, 2016
  • Published September 30, 2016

Gov. Bill Walker speaks during a press conference in Juneau on Wednesday, June 15, 2016. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)

Since Statehood, three other Alaska governors have faced severe fiscal crises. Those crises occurred during the mid-1980s, the late 1990s and the early 2000s.

None of those governors took your Permanent Fund dividend to solve the budget gap.

But sitting Gov. Bill Walker, whose election was engineered in part by AFL-CIO boss Vince Beltrami and a compliant Alaska Democratic Party, has taken half of yours.

Despite tough times, the Republican majorities in the House and Senate fully funded your Permanent Fund dividend at $2,052 this year.

But the Democrats' governor was not happy and zapped $1,032 away from every man, woman, and child.

Where does that money go? It does not fix the budget gap; the money just sits there in the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve Account.

Smoke and mirrors are the Democrats' governor's stock in trade.

Walker claims he cut "unrestricted general fund spending" by 44 percent, nearly in half.

Was it not just achieved largely by butchering nearly the entire capital budget for schools, roads and maintenance of state facilities, but not with any serious reduction in the bloated operating budget?

Didn't he promise to protect the dividend and cut the operating budget by 16 percent? The Democrats' governor fooled many voters with his campaign promises in 2014.

The Democrats' governor claims the budget is now down to $4.4 billion and income is expected at $1.2 billion. So does this governor renegotiate the automatic merit increases for 20,000 state employees? Does he reopen any labor contract to deal with an 80 percent reduction in revenue?

No, he does not. That would be work. That might annoy the organized-labor boss, Vince Beltrami.

Instead, the Democrats' governor took half your dividend.

Did the governor reduce the fastest growing part of Alaska's budget – health care costs? He did the opposite, expanding Obamacare's Medicaid without having the funds to pay for it long-term. Estimates now show the program already costs $30 million more than Walker predicted.

But he did manage to veto half your dividend.

Did the governor combine any of his 16 departments, seriously consolidate services or propose a balanced budget?  He did not.

So much work! So much easier for the Democrat's governor to take half your dividend.

Walker claims the state is "spending" more on dividends than any other state service. Since when are Permanent Fund dividends "a state service?"

Your dividend represents just a share of the earnings from the invested savings off our commonly owned oil and gas and mineral resources. The savings going to our Permanent Fund are mandated by our Constitution. The use of some of those earnings for individual dividends is mandated by current law.

The state already grabs and spends 75 percent of our commonly owned natural resource income every year.

Is 75 percent just not enough for this governor?

We are beginning to see the difference between this governor and the other three governors who faced severe fiscal crises: They were competent. They did the hard work of good government.

But Bill Walker failed. He failed to get his Permanent Fund and revenue bill through the Legislature, he failed to introduce a balanced budget, he failed to make any significant reduction in the operating cost of the state bureaucracy, but he did manage to — all by himself –  veto half your dividend.

He did so without a vote of the Legislature or a vote of the people.

Why?

Many believe Walker's life dream has been a state-owned or state-financed natural gas pipeline, and apparently all else is sacrificed to his lifelong pipe dream.

Now that appears to include part of every Alaskan's Permanent Fund dividend. Too bad he did not tell Alaskans what his real agenda was when he asked for their vote for governor.

Election Day, Nov. 8,  will be a decision day for Alaskans. Will we elect more enablers for the Democrats' governor? Or will we elect conservative Alaskans who will make responsible decisions toward a balanced budget?

Much of the answer comes down to the man who demanded that Democrats like Byron Mallott and Hollis French be taken off the ballot in 2014, and demanded Walker drop his running mate and pick up Democrat Mallott.

At the center of that contorted scheme was AFL-CIO boss Beltrami. This year he is joined at the hip with  lawyer Robin Brena (coincidentally the man who purchased Walker's law firm for an undisclosed price).

The Beltrami-Brena boys are coming for your income, your dividend and perhaps even the Permanent Fund itself.

We can only imagine what the state budget and salaries and benefits for state employees would be if the boss of the AFL-CIO gets to sit on both sides of the negotiating table with the Democrats' governor, ready to grab the other half of your dividend.

To get a truly independent, conservative Legislature, free from the power grab of boss Beltrami, vote Republican on Nov. 8.

We all need common sense, independent and conservative candidates to work to get Alaska moving again.

While there is no one answer to the budget gap, you and I know that the scrappy individuals who have been elected as the Republican candidates will work a heck of a lot harder than your average Democrat (or Democrat running as an "independent")  to promote resource development, jobs and your freedom and keep government from invading your pocket.

Tuckerman Babcock lives on the Kenai Peninsula and is chairman of the Alaska Republican Party.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@)alaskadispatch.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@alaskadispatch.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

 
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