OPINION: Even Gov. Dunleavy is tired of the Dunleavy agenda

In terms of mere words, Gov. Mike Dunleavy delivered a solid State of the State address this past week. He celebrated the achievements of outstanding Alaskans in their many fields and even landed a decent joke about pink salmon fishing. But in terms of honesty and consistency, the policy vision was a dizzying about-face for an administration that spent three years chopping away at the foundations of our state government and Alaska way of life.

The state of our state is strong — not because of three harrowing years under the Dunleavy administration, but because of the Alaskans who had the courage to thwart him.

It is only because the Legislature blocked all of Gov. Dunleavy’s major policy proposals — and because of significant federal investment championed by Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Congressman Don Young — that Alaska is in a position to turn towards a brighter future.

A non-exhaustive list of Dunleavy’s State of the State hypocrisy follows:

Dunleavy took credit for the Permanent Fund reaching an unprecedented size and strength. However, it has only reached this size because the Legislature blocked his multiple attempts to overdraw the Fund and liquidate large sums to pay out mega-dividends. More recently, his administration appears to have orchestrated the firing of Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation executive director Angela Rodell, who presided over this tremendous period of growth — a disturbing action the Legislature is rightly investigating.

Dunleavy claims he’s strengthened public safety. What he didn’t disclose is that he pushed to privatize incarceration of Alaska’s inmates, and send them to prisons outside of Alaska, far from the family and community support they need for rehabilitation.

Dunleavy now claims to value rural Alaska. But prior to supporting the Village Public Safety Officer program, Dunleavy vetoed its funding, along with funding of behavioral health services that are shown to reduce property crime. He also tried to eliminate the Power Cost Equalization program, an important cost-balancing program for rural Alaskans who don’t have access to the benefits of state spending on more centralized energy projects.


The 2022 version of Dunleavy is now a champion of food security and aquaculture. That’s somewhat ironic, given that in prior years he vetoed funds and ended programs supporting shellfish testing, dairy inspections, and local agriculture production.

On education, Gov. Dunleavy has repeatedly vetoed or reduced funds for our pre-kindergarten, K-12 schools and university system. Now he claims he wants to “fully fund” education. That’s certainly news to Alaska’s students and educational professionals. Fully funding education will require real capital investments as well as an update to the Base Student Allocation, which has fallen behind inflation for many years.

Dunleavy made a big issue of early reading, but failed to mention that an Alaskan, Michaela Goade, was the recipient of the highest honor in children’s books, the Caldecott Medal. And celebrating the arts and culture of Alaska would have fit right in with the theme of the evening, since he previously eliminated the Alaska State Council on the Arts.

Just last year, Gov. Dunleavy vetoed funds (again) for foster care and frontline child welfare services. But all of a sudden, this year he says he will support the levels of funding that the Legislature has had to fight him for each and every year. The election-year version of Dunleavy is absolutely correct that these services are critical, but he might want to have a word with that other Dunleavy, who apparently believed services for foster children were optional.

Dunleavy indicated support for funding shelters and legal services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. This is actually something the Legislature funded — and had to refund because Gov. Dunleavy repeatedly vetoed it. Not to mention the fact that Gov. Dunleavy sheltered and protected his former attorney general for months, despite knowing that he had serially harassed one of the governor’s very own employees.

Not even his record on the PFD is consistent or clean. Gov. Dunleavy famously campaigned on paying every Alaskan a “full” dividend under the statute as well as back pay, despite the fact that it would devastate the Fund itself. For years he claimed that “we must follow the statute.” Now, he hypocritically promotes a size of PFD that exists in no valid statute anywhere — a number he pulled out of thin air, simply because it would allow him to lay claim to paying out the “largest” PFD ever. Additionally, he has the distinction of being the one and only governor who has vetoed the entire dividend, which he did last year. Fortunately, the Legislature took the high road, as it has so many times, and sent the governor back a PFD identical to the one he vetoed, which he grudgingly allowed to be paid.

Thanks to the many Alaskans whose work and advocacy have made this state stronger and better for their presence of mind and persistence. You might have the urge to decry the governor’s speech as a naked attempt to gaslight Alaskans. Which is true. But also keep in mind that this State of the State speech was also a vindication — proof that even Gov. Dunleavy is tired of the Dunleavy agenda.

Scott Kendall is an attorney, husband, and father of two from Anchorage. He has previously worked in elections, campaigns, and public policy roles, including as chief of staff for former Gov. Bill Walker. He served as part-time counsel for the Recall Dunleavy campaign.

Pat Race is a filmmaker and illustrator from Juneau. He is co-owner of the Alaska Robotics Gallery, a small comic shop and art gallery. He is a former member of the Alaska State Council on the Arts and served on the steering committee for the Recall Dunleavy campaign.

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