Opinions

Dunleavy the right choice for governor

Dan Sullivan served as mayor of Anchorage from 2009-2015.

For more than 50 years, I've had a front row seat in Alaska politics, serving as a volunteer, campaign manager, lobbyist, candidate, and for 15 years as an elected official. As we approach the fall election, Alaskans will have a very important decision to make on who to choose as our next governor. It seems that every election in our great state is "the most important election in our history." This time, it really is true. That is why I am supporting former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy to lead us through these challenging times.

Alaska state government, in my opinion, is structurally broken. The amount of money we spend in virtually every department is far greater per capita than anywhere else in the nation, and it is simply unsustainable. Some politicians say the budget has been cut to the bone, but it simply is not true. Yes, the capital budget has been significantly reduced, helping lead to our current recession. Spending from the general fund budget has been reduced on paper, but with funding from other pots of money used to make up the difference, many of the spending "reductions" are illusory.

The solutions are not easy and require a strong leader who has the courage to say no to the special interests that pressure our leaders to maintain the status quo. Failure to act in a timely manner to deal with the crash of oil prices in 2015 has only made the problem worse. Instead, we see a massive expansion of Medicaid, a program created for the most vulnerable citizens, to tens of thousands of able young adults. This expansion has cost the state millions of dollars, and the costs will only continue to grow. A huge mistake.

While the private sector was laying off employees, reducing salaries and work hours, our state government handed out raises to its union employees and increased salaries of executives, while also hiring a political consultant as a special assistant to the governor who later resigned to run his re-election campaign. This is not leading by example.

When I was elected mayor of Anchorage, I also took on the challenge of a government living beyond its means. Under my predecessor, current Democrat gubernatorial candidate Mark Begich, spending grew by nearly 50 percent in just six years. We instituted a hiring freeze, a travel freeze, and all executives took a 5 percent cut in salary. We made tough spending decisions in all departments. Within a few short years, we were financially strong again, achieving a AAA bond rating, the only city in Alaska to reach that high standard.

Of the current candidates for governor, only Mike Dunleavy has shown the fortitude to make the tough decisions to get Alaska back on track to prosperity. Mike sacrificed a powerful position in the State Senate when he saw his colleagues failing to adhere to their conservative values regarding spending. His political opponents try to spin his principled stance by saying he quit on his constituents, but I have never heard any of his constituents say that.

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Mike is seemingly the only candidate who understands the damage done to the Alaska economy by reducing the PFD for three straight years, making our recession far worse than necessary. As a small-business owner, I can attest to the negative effect this has had throughout Alaska. Should Alaska Permanent Fund earnings ever be used for government? Perhaps, but only after every conceivable effort has been made to make our government more efficient and more effective. Then, and only then, should we look to that revenue source for government.

Mike understands that for the future of Alaska and the lifestyle we have enjoyed over the past several decades, we must be good partners with the oil industry, including living up to our promises when we offer incentives. The discoveries by the independents in Cook Inlet and on the North Slope are real and will lead to many years of increased production. While diversifying our economy should always be pursued, Mike understands there is no substitute for oil revenues, nor will there be for many decades.

Mike is a great family man and a committed public servant. His wife, Rose, and their three lovely daughters make a great team. In addition to his time in the Legislature, he has served his community as a teacher, principal, superintendent and as the school board president of one of the fastest-growing school districts in the country. He has developed and responsibly managed multimillion-dollar budgets within government structures. I truly believe he is the right man at the right time for Alaska, and I am proud to support him.

Dan Sullivan served as mayor of Anchorage from 2009-2015.

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Dan Sullivan

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