I’m Here for You
February 5, 2019
Speaking Short for Alaska
Governor Dunleavy gave his first State of the State Address on January 22. This is the eleventh State of the State I’ve been privileged to witness from the floor. I was struck by how short it was, at just under 25 minutes, and how short it was on actual information. It also differed from other speeches in that instead of an electronic copy, I got an expensive printed souvenir booklet.
In what sounded like a campaign speech, the Governor made several promises, many of which sound great. Yes, we want to reduce crime. Yes, we want to balance the budget. But when he wants to cut $1.6 billion from the budget, it just doesn’t pencil out.
To put that in perspective, that’s about equal to what the state spends on k-12 public education and the University. That’s about what was spent on Dividends last year. That’s more than the entire Department of Health & Social Services budget. That’s about a third of last year’s budget.
You get it – that’s a lot of money to cut. It would be impossible to make that amount of cuts without devastating Alaska’s economy, weakening our infrastructure, depriving our children of a decent education, or cutting corners on public safety.
The Governor also declared a “War on Criminals.” But to fight crime, we need more investment. We need more police and troopers on the ground, which requires training and resources, as well as salary and benefit packages that compensate them fairly for the hard and dangerous work they do. We already have a hard time filling these positions and keeping them filled.
We need strong programs that keep people from becoming criminals in the first place, like those providing early education and behavioral health. We also need programs that focus on shutting down the revolving door and ensuring that people released from the prison system don’t just go out and commit more crime, yet the administration has already walked back on accepting a $1 million grant awarded to the state to reduce recidivism.
What the Governor didn’t talk about was education, which I found remarkable, since he is a former educator and started serving in politics like I did, on the local school board.
He didn’t talk about resources, except to downplay resource development’s importance in Alaska’s economy. The closest he came was mentioning that Alaska is open for business but seemed to rely largely on marketing Alaska to the rest of the world rather than growing our economy from within.
He also didn’t talk about what parts of the budget he wants to cut. The Governor’s budget is due on February 13. We don’t know what it’s going to include/cut, but the supplemental budget for the current year gives us some clues. In an unprecedented move, he proposes cutting funds that have already been appropriated, including a $20 million cut to education and $3 million cut to the Village Public Safety Officers program.
Cuts should and will happen, but we need make sure we preserve the necessary investments to make sure we are protecting the public and providing our future generations with an adequate education. I look forward to working with the new administration to make government run more effectively and efficiently. At the same time, we must do it in such a way to develop jobs and grow our economy.
Rep. Tuck welcomed leaders of the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER), which works to promote economic growth in the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada.
Rep. Tuck with PNWER President, Larry Doke, Member of the Legislative Assembly in Saskatchewan; PNWER Vice President, Robert R. McLeod, Premier of Northwest Territories; and PNWER CEO Matt Morrison.
The Cold Climate Housing Research Center is a non-profit organization formed over a decade ago by members of the Alaska State Homebuilders Association to facilitate the development, use, and testing of building technologies for people living in cold climates worldwide. They can give you helpful tips about the best ways to prepare your home for Alaska’s harsh winters.
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