Great news: A court has rejected Governor Dunleavy's attempt to "sweep" the Power Cost Equalization endowment into the General Fund. This is great news, and protects affordable energy for 82,000 Alaskans in nearly 200 rural communities. Dunleavy's attempt to liquidate the endowment was based on a novel legal opinion from disgraced Attorney General Kevin Clarkson, and thank goodness the courts have protected this program. Thank you to the Alaska Federation of Natives and other stakeholders who brought this public interest lawsuit to protect Alaskans.
This victory for Power Cost Equalization comes after three years of attacks on the program, and makes me reflect on how wild the last few years have been in the politics of this state. We've faced proposals to annihilate public services (Arduin/Dunleavy budget), raid the Permanent Fund, privatize our prisons, make the Pioneer Homes unaffordable, essentially shut down the ferry system, gut services for survivors of domestic violence, apprenticeships in the electrical and mechanical trades, people facing the risk of homelessness, as well as completely unnecessary government shutdown, brazen corruption with no-bid contracts, attempts to privatize and close DMVs, just to name a few.
And yet... we are winning. Not only have we blocked raids on the Permanent Fund, it is at its most valuable in state history, and we are well positioned to fund core services and an affordable dividend long into the future.
Not only did we beat back attempts to liquidate PCE, now it is protected from future attacks by this or other Governors.
Not only did we block massive Pioneer Home rate increases, we put affordable rates into statute for the security of residents long into the future.
Not only did we raise alarms about an attack on electrical and mechanical apprenticeships, we protected them in statute.
And we blocked privatization of API, prisons, DMVs, and restored most (though not all) funding for services for our most vulnerable neighbors.
There are so many good people from a wide range of political persuasions in this state, in the legislature, and in our executive branch agencies. Yes, it has been a wild ride to confront almost daily threats from this Governor, and make no mistake we will face more. But when we reflect on the last three years, my conclusion is that Alaska is winning, and even with a demagogue as Governor collectively we have enough power to protect our state's Constitutional framework and core institutions.
On Monday, the legislature enters our third special session. After Governor Dunleavy vetoed the Permanent Fund Dividend to $0, you'd think he would've put a PFD bill on the agenda for this special session so we could re-appropriate a dividend. Nope. After the minority blocked the reverse sweep for PCE and dozens of other programs like WWAMI and higher education scholarships, you'd think the Governor would put a reverse sweep bill on the agenda so we can protect these programs. Nope. The Governor sets the agenda for special sessions he calls, and the minority refuses to give us the votes (we need 40 of 60 legislators) to call ourselves into special session to appropriate a dividend and complete the reverse sweep. So unfortunately, the Governor has set up this third special session to be an exercise in futility, unless he adds an appropriations bill to the agenda before Monday, which he does have the power to do.
You might ask, why would the Governor set up this session to fail, veto the dividend to $0, and attack programs like PCE? I think that former Republican representative Andrew Halcro is right:
Gov. Dunleavy is trying to break things in order to foment popular discontent and fire up support for re-writing our Constitution, since the question of a Constitutional convention will appear on the 2022 ballot. There is an ultra-right wing fringe that wants to eliminate our Constitutional right to privacy and reproductive rights, take away public employee retirees' pensions, and eliminate other progressive Constitutional provisions like maximum benefit from resource development.
That is a battle for the near future, but if the recent past is prelude it is a battle we can win.