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Dunleavy budget is a shock tactic to open Alaska to the highest bidder

  • Author: Kengo Nagaoka
    | Opinion
    , Tristan Glowa
    | Opinion
    , Derek Reed
    | Opinion
  • Updated: March 1
  • Published March 3

The moon rises over the Anchorage, AK skyline and is reflected in a puddle near the small boat launch next to Ship Creek on Tuesday, September 13, 2016. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)

Alaska is home for us and will be for our future kids and grandkids. Young Alaskans like us care about decisions made now because each shapes our future. It’s out of love for Alaska that we write this: Gov. Mike Dunleavy and Office of Management and Budget Director Donna Arduin’s proposed budget is a deeply concerning move toward irreparable damage.

The Dunleavy budget proposal is not in the best interests of Alaskans and the well-being of our state. It’s an ideological statement and a shock tactic to disorient Alaskans while pushing through austerity, privatization and unpopular extraction projects as fast as possible. Alaska doesn’t benefit from this, the Outside corporate elite does. This is egregious and immoral. It threatens our fiscal sustainability and shifts the burden onto working Alaskans and marginalized communities. We need to resist this proposal and put forward a better vision of our state government that can actually keep our communities resilient as we transition towards the next Alaska economy.

Every community in Alaska suffers with this budget, rural communities more than any others. While Alaskans are forced to argue over a false choice between Permanent Fund dividends and the services essential to our communities, this administration is already moving to privatize the public institutions we depend on. Gov. Dunleavy would not have been elected had he campaigned on privatizing the Alaska Marine Highway, the Alaska Psychiatric Institute and our prisons, or appointing commissioners with blatant ties to Pebble Mine. Meanwhile, Pebble Mine hearings will march forward during the height of the budget battle. While we scramble to preserve our communities, Outsiders look to make a profit.

Gov. Dunleavy and Director Arduin disguised this budget as a rational answer to fiscal deficit. In reality, they’re trying to justify their extreme and deeply unpopular ideas of dismantling and privatizing the crucial government services that our communities depend on. This isn’t new. It’s a strategy that’s left a wake of destruction around the nation. Politicians allied with corporate profiteers have exploited fiscal deficits in places like Michigan, Wisconsin and Puerto Rico as opportunities to advance slash-and-burn political agendas like Dunleavy’s. In every instance, these policies had disastrous impacts on education outcomes, community health (as with the Flint water crisis), labor protections, democratic oversight and the economic resilience of working families.

The Dunleavy administration’s strategy is to make the state suffer and narrow our options for relief. This budget discards reasonable solutions to the fiscal deficit, such as reducing our staggering tax credit giveaways to oil companies or instituting a progressive income tax. The administration is pushing heartless cuts, privatization and more irresponsible resource extraction as the only ways to move forward, while proposing constitutional amendments that make options like new taxes politically impossible.

As young Alaskans, we demand to see solutions that prioritize our well-being and that of generations to come. Our heavy dependence on resource-extraction industries and giveaways to Outside corporate elite have gotten us into this mess. Now is our chance to put forth a plan for a new Alaska economy that is just, equitable and sustainable. If we strategically use public funds, we can jump-start regenerative local economies in both rural and urban Alaska, guarantee jobs for thousands of Alaskans and diversify our revenue streams. Ending oil tax credits and introducing broad-based taxes can keep wealth in our state and protect public services like education and healthcare that cultivate innovation and resilience in our communities. It’s up to us to deconstruct this false choice that Gov. Dunleavy is posing between extraction and economic suffering, and to uplift real solutions that come from the people.

Kengo Nagaoka is a community organizer from Fairbanks. He is based in Anchorage and works with The Alaska Center as Youth Civic Engagement Coordinator.

Tristan Glowa is from Fairbanks and works as a community organizer for Native Movement and the Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition.

Derek Reed is an educator in the Anchorage area. He is a grassroots activist for progressive causes and a member of NEA-Alaska.

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