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Alaska needs strong vision, not Dunleavy’s budget

  • Author: Rep. Les Gara
    | Opinion
  • Updated: 5 days ago
  • Published 6 days ago

Alaska gubernatorial candidates from left, Republican Mike Dunleavy, incumbent Gov. Bill Walker, and Democrat Mark Begich. (ADN photo)

The governor's race should be decided on facts, not misleading campaign ads. You deserve the truth. That's different than what the slick ads paid for by Mike Dunleavy's multi-millionaire Texas brother and Outside corporations are telling you.

Let's start with former Sen. Dunleavy's crime votes.
As someone who's served with Dunleavy, I've seen him vote to cut the prosecutors we need to put criminals in jail. Today, more criminals are in our communities committing more crime.

He's voted to devastate support for public education.
He's voted to cut support for our Pioneer Homes and for Alaskans who live with difficult disabilities. He's attempted to cut help for seniors and for abused foster youth. Yet, with a major deficit, he's voted to support an unaffordable $1.5 billion Knik Arm bridge. Those are backwards priorities.

So why haven't you heard much about his record this campaign? Gov. Bill Walker and former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich are battling for moderate Republican, independent and Democratic voters in this three-way race, and have had to put effort into getting votes from each other. I think that's likely harmed their capacity to get information out on Dunleavy's voting record.
More on that later. It's more important to focus on Dunleavy's record as a state senator.

First, his votes have resulted in catch-and-release crime policy, and that has little to do with him voting both ways on Senate Bill 91.
Between 2013, when Dunleavy joined the Alaska Senate, and 2016, he voted to cut 16 prosecutors and 20 percent of our criminal prosecution support staff. In 2016, the Department of Law told the Legislature that between 2013-2015, the percentage of felonies understaffed district attorney's offices couldn't accept from police to prosecute jumped from 17 percent to almost 22 percent. The percentage of police-referred misdemeanors they couldn't prosecute almost doubled, from 7.4 percent to 13.8 percent.
Because of the cuts to people who put criminals in jail, more criminals are on our streets today committing more crime.

In 2017, I and a coalition of Republicans, Democrats and independents joined in a nonpartisan House Majority Coalition. We have since reversed many of these prosecutor cuts, and focused cuts on less important areas.
Here's more you should know.

Dunleavy voted for a bill to cut almost half the state "community assistance" funds we send to cities and local governments, which many used to hire police and keep down property taxes. I voted against that bill. In 2017-2018, our House coalition worked to minimize the severity of the cuts from that legislation. Cutting funds needed by communities for police and property tax relief isn't an "efficiency."

From 2013, when former Sen. Dunleavy was elected, though this spring, Alaska schools cut more than 700 teachers and educational support positions, mostly due to inadequate state school funding. Dunleavy tried to make that even worse. In 2017, before quitting the Senate, he tried to cut more than 500 more teachers and educators. How? He voted to cut an additional $69 million in school funding.

Our House Coalition rejected that budget cut in 2017. Through negotiations, we won and reversed it, along with reversing then-Sen. Dunleavy's vote to eliminate all state-funded pre-kindergarten.

There's more. He voted for harmful cuts to senior services, Pioneer Homes, disability services and support for abused and neglected foster youth in 2017. Again, our House Coalition reversed those cuts, saying cuts should be focused on waste, not Alaskans living with difficulty.

Cutting opportunity and dignity isn't cutting "waste."

I want a stronger Alaska, not one parents who care about their children's education move from, taking away their job skills and small businesses. I want an Alaska with the police and prosecutors we need to keep us safe.

I haven't joined some of my Democratic friends in criticizing a moderate independent governor who I think is honest and has been on the right side of these issues. I've disagreed with those who said Mark Begich could win a three-way race when he entered, and I also don't think the governor can win a three-way race.

I like both men. But unless Mark Begich or Gov. Walker have some amazing strategy, I believe the best way forward is for them to talk, as the good Alaskans they are, put understandable frustrations with each other to the side, and decide one campaign should join forces to support the other. Which one? I have no illusions I can dictate that. So I'll just hope they'll talk and figure this out. Or, I fear, Alaska is in for a long, bad ride.

Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, is vice chair of the House Finance Committee and has chosen not to run for re-election.

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