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Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Contagious Disease of some Elected Officials


Alaska Reflections on The Plague

(2020©donnliston.com)


Alaskans in confinement due to the Corona virus may take this chance to reflect on more than day-to-day minutia of chores related to winter becoming spring, perhaps even considering the reality of Henry David Thoreau’s (1817-1862) statement that the mass of men live lives of quiet desperation.1 Another classic American author, Albert Camus (1913-1960) expanded that concept further in his classic book titled The Plague.2 In this fascinating work the author exposes the absurdity of life for mortals who strive to accomplish achievements–individually and collectively—which eventually come to nothing.

Alaskan/Canadian poet Robert Service summed it up as: There are strange things done in the midnight sun by the men who moll for gold.3

The Chinese Corona virus pandemic of 2019-2020 will be an historic event as will the failure of the Alaska Legislature to rise to the occasion in Juneau. Voters who remain in Alaska over coming months must remember in the next election who let them down when they needed economic support the most.


Americans overall have not experienced the ravages of a pandemic in our lifetimes. Our medical providers have dealt admirably with most healthcare challenges over the decades, and we accept the reality of annual losses from illness like influenza. But in Camus' fictional story describing events in a deadly pandemic, he provides interesting insights into human nature during a collective crisis—a story we can safely reflect upon even as it also develops here—in the comfort of our homes.


The Horror of an Uncontrollable Epidemic


The setting of The Plague is the small coastal town of Oran, Algeria, during the 1940s as the people there encounter the bubonic plague. It began with rats. Longtime local doctor, Bernard Rieux displays great patience, fortitude, and unselfishness as illness strikes rich and poor people alike, eventually killing as many as 300 a day. An array of fascinating characters attempt to deal with the outcomes from those who contract the disease--requiring treatment, needs of daily living and disposal of many dead bodies. At the end of the book we learn that the doctor has narrated the story, making the pestilence have attributes of a character, the antagonist.

During the plague individual destinies become collective destinies; nobody knows who will get it and who will be spared as the plague and its resulting emotions are shared by all.

To a lesser degree this is happening now in our state, too. Children are home from school and we all are daily being educated on recommendations of medical providers and our own responsibilities to mitigate spread of the disease. Local officials in the story did not want to tell the public about what was happening until the death rate reached an undeniable 30 per day, but soon local papers were meticulous in reporting weekly deaths until they passed the 900 mark, when they reverted to only reporting daily tolls. 

Disasters sell newspapers, you know.


In The Plague medicine was not effective, the local Jesuit priest tells his parishioners that they have brought the plague upon themselves through their godlessness, but comes to realize this could not really be divine retribution after witnessing a young boy’s painful death.



In Camus’ book, some die and some miraculously live.

By the time this modern Covid19 pandemic is over, we will also have Alaskan losses, experiences and events to report about what happened or didn’t happen. The Plague places the human condition in context in the time it was written. Today’s Corona Virus might also bring revelations about what kind of country we are living in and what really matters to Alaskans who elect “representatives” who go to Juneau—where even in a crisis they are beholding to special interests over those regular folks who voted for them.

The Big Picture of Covid19



According to Wikipedia as of March 29, 2020: The outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei, China, in December 2019, and was recognized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 11 March. As of 29 March 2020, more than 685,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in over 190 countries and territories, resulting in approximately 32,100 deaths. More than 146,000 people have since recovered.

Information about the numbers who have recovered don’t sell newspapers.

No mistake about it: The Chinese caused this global pandemic and it took three months for the World Health Organization to even declare there was a pandemic. This matters, because Alaska is a satellite state and we are vulnerable to worldwide events from our international location between Russia and Canada.

For background: On January 18, Chinese Communist authorities allowed a communal feast in Wuhan attended by 40,000 families celebrating the Lunar New Year.4

Piecing together the events in Wuhan shows that for at least three weeks before the banquet, city authorities had been informed about the potentially deadly virus spreading in their midst but issued orders to suppress the news. In effect, they engineered a cover-up that played down the seriousness of the outbreak, according to officials and medical professionals.
By the last week of January, seven million people had left Wuhan (population, 11 million) for parts unknown. Now, we know where they went; Google “pandemic deaths.” All this before anyone in the West had even an inkling of the Chinese Virus. The world didn’t know because China withheld the information.



The communist leadership of China, though, knew what they had on their hands. Armed “volunteers” were welding shut the doors of infected people’s homes to enforce their “day late and a yuan short” quarantine while they told the rest of the world there was still nothing to fear.

Having successfully built an economy on technology theft, product dumping, unfair trade practices, currency manipulation, lying, and various other legerdemain, China undoubtedly is feeling its oats (along with eating its pangolins, bats, and monkeys). Aware of the coming worldwide pandemic, because they caused it, the first order of action was to buy up the globe’s supply of surgical masks and pandemic medical supplies.5

President Trump took early and decisive action.

From the New York Times:  Moving to counter the spreading coronavirus outbreak, the Trump administration said Friday that it would bar entry by most foreign nationals who had recently visited China and put some American travelers under a quarantine as it declared a rare public health emergency.
The temporary restrictions followed announcements by American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines that they would suspend air service between the United States and China for several months.
The travel disruption sent shocks through the stock market and rattled industries that depend on the flow of goods and people between the world’s two largest economies. Planning was upended for companies across a vast global supply chain, from Apple to John Deere, the tractor company.6
Alaska could have had it worse. Remember when we had a Governor who tried to sell Alaskans on the merit of China funding a long sought but uneconomic gasline, and buying our gas exclusively? He distributed a hardbound book to all legislators. In the personal inscription, Gov. Walker enthused that more than 1,500 business partnerships with various states were listed and Alaska only had three: "...but our upside is unlimited."



What’s best for Alaskans NOW?

Alaska has an inflated economy requiring people who wish to live here long-term to find career options consistent with economic requirements for certain abilities and interests. Additionally all Alaskans may participate in the sharing of natural resources as provided for in our state constitution:

Article VIII Natural Resources 
Section 2 General Authority

The legislature shall provide for the utilization, development, and conservation of all natural resources belonging to the State, including land and waters, for the maximum benefit of the people.

Admittedly this annual dividend isn't a lot of money, but it is important to many Alaskans for an annual boost. Legislators who take tens of thousands of dollars from contributors buying influence don't even notice the PFD.

The idealistic state constitution was the basis for establishing the Permanent Fund so that all Alaskans benefit and have a stake in oil resource wealth and state government. The PFD was established by a previous group of legislators who had no idea what tomorrow might bring and believed future generations of Alaskans had a right to the benefits of this natural resource bounty. By establishing an annual dividend payment from half of the earnings averaged over five years, the goal of the Permanent Fund was wisely set to be more than to simply fund more government. Had Alaskans wanted resource bounty to simply provide for ever expanding state government the fund and it’s annual dividend would have been unnecessary.

View of Juneau City Center from the 4th Floor of the Capital.
Some seem to think providing bottom of the nation education, for the highest cost in our nation schools, is acceptable because we happen to be a resource-rich state. Over some 45 years we have dumbed down Alaskans in basic academic skills while building top-heavy bureaucracies. Products of our public education hoax elect people calling themselves “Republicans” who go to backwater Juneau, join minority Democrats to form coalitions, and serve their own interests over those who elected them. Coalition members are beholding only to who gave them power.

At the conclusion of The Plague, colder weather of January ends the contagion and assessment begins of damage done. Streets become crowded again as lovers, husbands, and wives are reunited. Rieux (the doctor) dispassionately observes the masses of humanity and realizes he has learned the importance of human contact.

We in Alaska have enjoyed human contact through social media, while observing the dummies in Juneau continue to meet in a very small area. In their power orgy some legislators have jeopardized themselves and staffs to assure Alaskans receive a minimum of the statutory percentage of the Permanent Fund due. This theft began with the governor who tried to also sell the state out to China.

When the virus is over and many legislators who betrayed us return to districts looking for re-election, we must never forget that some elected officials are WORSE than The Plague.

References:

1Henry David Thoreau, Walden


2Albert Camus, The Plague

3Robert Service, Cremation of Sam McGee

4Financial Times, “Coronavirus: the cost of China’s public health cover-up” https://www.ft.com/content/fa83463a-4737-11ea-aeb3-955839e06441

5American Thinker, William L. Gensert 

6New York Times, Trump Administration Restricts Entry Into U.S. From China https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/31/business/china-travel-coronavirus.html



















Tuesday, March 17, 2020

When Legislators Cared about Alaskans


HUGH MALONE’S PERMANENT FUND LEGACY

(2020©donnliston.com)

Hugh Malone was Speaker of the Alaska House of Representatives when the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend was designed to protect Alaska resource wealth from being pissed away by politicians. The dividend gives all Alaskans a stake in the fund's future by spending levels set  by averaging 5-year earnings.

 Every year around St Patrick's Day my memory returns to one of the best friends I have ever had, who died too soon, and who might be outraged at what appears to be happening today to his most enduring legacy, the Alaska Permanent Fund PFD payout. He didn’t cause it to happen alone, but the Permanent Fund  corporate board room at the Juneau headquarters was named after Hugh Malone on April 30, 2001, and his presence must be felt during every meeting there since.

Our mutual friend Clark Gruening signed that proclamation naming the conference room as chair of the Permanent Fund Board of Directors.

Hugh and I became friends in Juneau because we both had dogs we liked to walk on the many trails, docks and beaches around the area. We had been casual friends for a long time but became close as we shared our Alaska life experiences and varied perspectives on politics during frequent outings.

A professor of Anthropology at Kenai Peninsula College, Alan Boraas in January of 2004 reflected in a column he wrote in the Anchorage Daily News about the Kenai representative he had encountered in 1978, who was: the brains behind the Permanent Fund, and was part of a cadre of young, liberal Democrats and moderate Republicans like Jay Hammond, who forged one of the most innovative and fiscally conservative financial institutions in Alaska’s history. Boraas also credited Malone as among the smartest and most thoughtful legislators Alaska has ever elected.1

Hugh Malone, 1977
This appears to be a quality sorely lacking in legislators today who say anything to get elected and go to Juneau to accommodate the bidding of special interests. As the largest employer in Alaska, the State of Alaska is a special interest demanding ever more while oil revenues decrease.

Juneau is also the pinch-point for all state employee unions.

In his column, Boraas continues, …at 10 o’clock on a clear, crisp, fall night we found ourselves in the parking lot of the old Kenai Library after everyone else had gone home. Hugh, leaning against the old beater car he drove, smoked a cigarette and talked about the dividend while I turned my collar up against the cold and listened.

What has become the dividend was not a foregone conclusion and was not part of the earliest discussion of the fund, reported Boraas. Growing up in Kenai, Malone had seen the powerful influence the oil industry could exert in a community…This strategy of influencer was no doubt forged at company headquarters back in Houston or London where they knew it’s hard to demand environmental accountability, question labor practices or resist efforts to lower oil taxes when the public face of the company is sitting next to you at the Rotary Club or donating uniforms to your kid’s Little League team.

It was almost always difficult to get a good picture
of Hugh Malone but we had good times on my boat!
Some might argue that as our partners in Alaska oil resource development the oil companies didn’t need to be our corporate nanny. Their success is automatically our success if the state gets a percentage of all oil produced. But the genius of the Permanent Fund is that it protected our part of the earnings by distributing a statutory amount in addition to providing for an equal amount to fund reasonable State government.

By (the oil industry) applying this (self-serving) strategy statewide and intensively lobbying the legislature, Malone reasoned, the oil industry would successfully lower its oil taxes, the major contributor to the principal of the fund in the early years, and the Permanent Fund would dissolve, explained Boraas.

Which never happened!

And here is the clincher: However, a significant yearly dividend paid directly to Alaskans from invested interest would create public  ownership of the Permanent Fund concept and vigilance over oil tax contributions to the principal upon which the dividend was ultimately based because their (Alaskan) pocketbooks would be directly affected.

In his 2004 reflection, Boraas begrudgingly further admits: In this sense, the dividend program has worked. Last year the Legislature lowered North Slope oil taxes for perhaps the first time since the inception of the permanent fund. But now, ironically, the public’s diligence over the fund that Malone envisioned is not directed at the industry’s attempt to reduce its taxes but at state government’s need to use the fund to pay for services.

Imagine that, a state UA employee bemoaning in print that the need to adjust taxes on declining oil fields could be detrimental to state employee's incomes.

The genius of the Permanent Fund Dividend, is Alaskans have a stake in the future of the fund by virtue of the fact they receive a payout based on the value of the fund. Shouldn’t they have the right to decide if that fund should be used to buy more government or to reduce expenditure on state government? Should elected officials be allowed to simply change the terms of PFD payouts while hiding out in Juneau without a vote of the people?

I don’t think so, and I don’t think Hugh would have thought so either. If we currently had elected officials in the legislative majority of the caliber of Hugh Malone they wouldn’t think so either.

Hugh and I pulled our share of dungeness and king crab in the waters around Juneau.

Hugh Malone died while on vacation in Italy March 8, 2001 at age 57. It came as a great shock to me at a time when I was working as a substitute teacher while earning my teaching certificate in Juneau schools. He had encouraged me in this pursuit.

Hugh was a couple of years older than I but we had both participated in the takeover of the Alaska Democrat Party by the Ad Hoc Young Democrats during the early 1970s. He had gone on to become a member of the Alaska House of Representatives from Kenai. A surveyor by trade, Hugh had never finished high school, but the had such a common sense approach to life that he attracted smart people to his brilliant way of thinking.

Prior to the Celebration of Life for Hugh, held on St. Patrick’s Day, the following tribute was published in the Juneau Empire .

Waiting at the gate for Hugh’s calls2

By Donn Liston

Hugh Malone became a part of our family after my chocolate Labrador retriever, Kowee, became his friend. Hardly a day went by when Hugh was in Juneau that he didn’t drive to our home to pick up Kowee and take her with his own dog, Gussey, to have an adventure.

Initially it was startling when Kowee would disappear from our fenced yard without notice. After a time or two of frantically calling Hugh’s number and leaving a message inquiring about Kowee, he made it a practice to call before picking her up. He would leave a message on our answering machine telling Kowee he was on his way over to take her for a walk. We might find out Hugh had liberated Kowee hours after she was already back home. Now, anytime Kowee hears the telephone ring she runs to the gate to wait for Hugh’s arrival.

Whenever he took Kowee, they would be gone for hours. But Hugh once told me Kowee would become anxious if he kept her too late. He said Kowee knew Cathy and I were “her people.”

Hugh always referred to Kowee as his friend, and I joked that we had joint custody of Kowee. It was a good deal for everybody. On occasion I would join Hugh, Gussey, Kowee, and sometimes Hugh's wife, Debra, on an outing to Sandy Beach or some local trail. Inevitably we met other dogs walking, and their people would often know Hugh, who would introduce me as “Kowee’s people” and his good friend. It had become somewhat of a ritual on Saturday mornings and afterward we would buy snacks and stop by the Friends of the Juneau Library store for cheap books.

Hugh was the best friend my wife and I have ever known. Moments spent with him are magical memories.

Sometimes I could get Hugh to talk about his efforts as a legislator, and later as an administration official (commissioner of revenue) under Gov. Steve Cowper. He would take no credit for anything he had accomplished in his quest to make government accountable to the people of Alaska. On the other hand, he was often critical of the way things have happened in this state since his days of public service, and freely offered his opinions about how things should be.

Some might be surprised to know that despite his critical role in establishing the Alaska Permanent Fund, Hugh was not satisfied with what had developed out of the initial idea of a means to use North Slope oil funds to make Alaska a better place for future Alaskans.  Additionally, after his many years in public office, Hugh was a man of intense integrity who hated corruption in any form.

When Cathy and I approached Hugh and Debora early this year about our upcoming vacation to Mexico in mid-February, it was revealed that they, too, had planned an upcoming trip to Europe. Once again, as in the past, we would need to work out arrangements for care of the dogs. We were scheduled to return to Juneau only a few days after they left.

Mere words cannot describe the loss we now feel at the news of Hugh’s untimely death March 8 in Italy. We are listless and sorrowful, although we know he would not want us to feel morose. So, Saturday morning I took the dogs to Sandy Beach for a walk like they were used to taking.

Kowee has been spending a lot of time at the gate waiting for Hugh following rings of our telephone. Taking the dogs out was one of Hugh’s favorite things to do and now, in his memory, it is going to be mine.

Commissioner of Revenue, Hugh Malone, 1994


The Eulogy

Plenty of people showed up for Hugh’s Irish Wake on St. Patrick’s Day and I was honored to be one who gave a eulogy. I described this giant of an Alaskan as possibly being some kind of magical Irish being who chose this time to leave rather than allow those of us who savored his many pots of gold to find out the truth.

Most primary records concerning the Leprechaun go back to the 19th century, and they describe a fellow with an occasionally elfish grin, with high spirits, and an inclination to suddenly move quickly or change the subject of a discussion in mid-sentence, when what was being said was irrelevant. They often appear to be mirthful, or animated, with serious overtones only when the situation calls for such. And while a leprechaun might, on occasion be inclined to imbibe in fine Irish beer or spirits, they never become so drunk that they are unsteady or their sharp minds become affected.

In the spirit of Hugh Malone I also offered: Leprechauns have also become self-appointed guardians of ancient treasure, which they have hidden in crocks or pots. This may be one reason why leprechauns tend to avoid contact with humans whom they regard as foolish, flighty, inconsistent and greedy creatures. However, if caught by a mortal, a leprechaun will promise great wealth if allowed to go free. And, according to the legends, you must never take your eye off a leprechaun or he can vanish in an instant.

Hugh Malone has vanished from his legacy continues. Gov. Dunleavy has proposed three constitutional amendments to protect our Permanent Fund pot of gold before the Dwarfs and Gnomes now in the Alaska Legislature majority caucus steal it all. In coming months every one of the candidates for legislative office must be asked where they stand on 1) Constitutional Amendment – Affirmative Vote of the People for Taxes (SJR 4/HJR 5);
2) Constitutional Amendment – Vote of the People to Change the Dividend Program (SJR 5/HJR 6);
3) Effective Constitutional Spending Limit; Savings Plan (SJR 6/HJR 7).

Alaskans must never let politicians steal the Permanent Fund.

References:

1Alan Boraas, "May spirit of Malone guide fund talks," Anchorage Daily News, January 24, 2004

2Donn Liston, Juneau Empire, Waiting at the Gate for Hugh's calls, March 12, 2001

Hugh Malone

LEGISLATIVE SERVICE:
1973-1976 Representative District  
1977-1978 Representative District  Speaker of the House
1979-1984 Representative District  
OCCUPATION:
Registered Land Surveyor from Kenai
COMMUNITY SERVICE:
Member, American Congress of Surveying and Mapping
EMPLOYMENT:
Member, Kenai City Council;
Member, Kenai Borough Assembly;
Vice Chairman, Cook Inlet Air Resources Commission;
Chairman, Alaska Local Boundary Commission
OTHER:
Kenai Chamber of Commerce Award for Governmental Service, 1971

Thursday, March 5, 2020

A Time for Truth


Gov. Dunleavy Dares Alaskans to Consider Possibilities

(2020©donnliston.com)



Alaska has a strong governor by design. Our constitution provides for the governor to be at least 30 years old and have lived in the state seven years, like most states, but two—California and Washington—allow the governor to be a minimum of 18 years old. I submit those states appear lately to be run by children no matter how old their elected officials are.

We in Alaska need to have adult conversations about our economic future.

The Executive Branch is where most money is spent in State government, and the governor’s Office of Management and Budget is the only place where anyone really knows where all state money is located. https://omb.alaska.gov/   
Because the governor controls the levers of power in our system the person in that position can do great good or great damage.



I submit that our last one-term Democrat Gov. Bill Walker did great harm. Together with legislators who say one thing at election time and go to Juneau to form cowardly coalitions to do the opposite, Alaskans are suffering from a lack of confidence in our state government. Budgets continue to grow as revenues decrease. How can voters be complacent as duplicitous politicians year after year drive the state operating budget into a fiscal ditch? Gov. Walker made nice with the Chinese Communists, promising a Gas Line will be pulled out of his magic hat, while conspiring with the majority coalition in the Alaska Legislature to violate the statutory formula for the Permanent Fund Dividend, stealing money from the People’s Fund for more bloated state government and non-profit corporation plunder.

Alaskans woke up when they got a fraction of their legal PFD under
Walker and his gang, but the games continue anyway.

We may be giving our kids the lowest academic outcomes in public education among all of the states but most Alaskans know intuitively they must balance their own budgets. Some become infuriated when special interests continue to take from the state where our expenditures for government services are far higher than anyplace else in the country. But, ultimately the very people who shoehorned Bill Walker into the governorship also showed him the door at the end of his term.

Since then the children pretending to be adults have been throwing a fit. But when Gov. Dunleavy decides to conduct a series of Town Halls to talk to Alaskans about what their vision is for the future of Alaska given current economic dynamics, we can assume he is sincere. He has been through a baptism by fire after soundly beating Anchorage School District graduate and Democrat governor candidate Mark Begich in November of 2018, and Dunleavy now needs validation of what voters expect given state budget realities.

While Alaskans were filling a Chugiak High School auditorium to learn about options for dealing with our state's financial crisis, these people were seeking signatures from voters whose candidate lost in the last election, for their ill-fated recall petition. This was not a likely venue to find many who wish to recall this governor but part of a public spectacle including illegal signature gathering Outside. 

Make no mistake about it, this governor won the election decisively:

Michael Dunleavy/Kevin Meyer won in the 2018 election with 145,631 (51.44%) votes over Democrats Begich/Call’s 125,739 (44.41%) votes. All others who wasted their votes only totaled 11,764 (4.15%) combined.

Yeah, I know I need a haircut!

I attended the governor’s Town Hall on March 2 at the Chugiak High School and found it very enlightening. As a teacher by training Gov. Dunleavy provided an instructional overview to what the problems are and some possibilities for addressing them. Specifically, three constitutional amendments are proposed, to 1. Require a vote of the people for any establishment or increase of taxes, (SJR 4/HJR 5) 2. Require a vote of the people to change the PFD program, (SJR 5/HJR 6) 3. Establish a baseline to limit spending to no more than the average of the appropriations for the last three fiscal years, plus 50 percent of inflation and population, or 2 percent, whichever is less. Additionally, as proposed the amendment to the constitution implements a constitutional savings plan, that directs unexpended funds each year to the Alaska Permanent Fund and to a savings reserve fund (SJR 6/HJR 7).

No gimmicks, no “trust me” scenarios; this is the governor’s proposal and it will require Alaskans to embrace it or we continue to play political take-away with the children whose unions run our public education system and state employees, sponsoring politicians who assure unions can negotiate salaries, benefits, and conditions of employment from both sides of the negotiating table. 

I will never again vote for a politician who takes a penny of union payoff money again.

Perspective of the Current Situation

H&SS Commissioner Adam Crum discussed State Cronavirus efforts.
Before opening the Town Hall for discussion of participant’s ideas, Gov. Dunleavy provided an overview of what has happened since he was elected in November of 2019, with a cameo appearance by H&SS Commissioner Adam Crum to talk about the State’s active efforts to protect Alaskans and deal with the threat of the Coronavirus. For more information about that readers may go here: http://dhss.alaska.gov/Pages/default.aspx

As a trained educator, Gov. Dunleavy approaches the job in a different mind-set than any previous governor of Alaska. That may be why unions and public employee teachers are afraid of him. Having also trained as a teacher myself, I recognize the formula for convincing parents that every teacher really cares, and has the best interest of every child at heart even beyond their own personal interests. However, I learned the difference in what they say in this regard and the reality in many ASD teacher lounges. The problem the unions have with Dunleavy may have to do with the fact he was also an administrator and school board member so the union doesn’t scare him when it backs an opponent who floated through ASD on his family name.

In the introduction to the Town Hall by Director of Communications Dave Stiren, participants were told their ideas and thoughts were invited and if they were not comfortable in this setting they could fill out a questionnaire or contact the governor’s office directly. One of the first people to jump into the que--wearing his Recall Dunleavy button prominently on his chest--was treated respectfully and quickly ran out of questions.

We are coming up on 15-months since we took office, began Dunleavy. We knew we had to contain the size of the budget after years of spending through our savings--in the past five years we have spent approximately $14-15 Billion. This is what is known as a structural deficit, meaning given the size of our government--with revenues coming in that are much less--we will use up all of our savings. The reason this was happening was due to oil prices going up, then down, then up. This happened before in the past but Alaska has always been saved by a spike in oil prices.

This time it is different.

Because of the new technology of fracking in the other states, today the United States is the largest source of energy on the planet. We actually export oil now whereas we didn’t used to do that. We export more than Russia or Saudia Arabia and the other big players, Dunleavy continued. During the campaign, the price of oil continued to decline through the summer and by October 10 it had held at $85/bbl.  Today the price of oil is about $51-52, which is lower than it has been for several months. There are a variety of reasons for that, regarding the oil market, but regardless the change has been considerable.

And this has political implications for people who broker ignorance to bolster their untenable economic positions.

To put that into perspective: $85/bbl versus $51/bbl today represents about $2.3 Billion in revenue difference, explained the governor. We had hoped throughout the campaign that we could consider a stepped down budget process—reduce a little this year, reduce a little next year, and over time arrive at a sustainable budget.

Keep in mind that investments in the North Slope Oil Patch have produced an additional 200-300 thousand barrels of oil in the pipeline, Dunleavy continued. We viewed this as a temporary situation. The problem was that on December 27-28 oil reached $54/bbl and the belief was it was going to keep going down. So we made a decision to reduce the budget--instead of a stepped down approach—and present to Alaskans a budget reduced by $1.6 Billion.

Reality can be so difficult for delusional people.

Dunleavy continued: Contrary to what some said in the press and others, that budget demonstrated what the budget would look like regardless of whether it was accepted by the legislature. We wanted to earmark some services and programs for the legislature to consider and look at. The discussion was very heated and the reductions were believed to be too steep, too soon. The end result was we had a contracted budget discussion and what I failed to do—what we failed to do—was to have the discussion early-on. I’ll be the first to admit I should have come out with a discussion with the public like we have here today. We did come out too late and considered as many options as possible, but I can’t undo what happened as far as the communication issue.

In other words, the crybabies who think they are the only people who count in their wishes to spend beyond our means took all of the oxygen out of the room. Some might even say the Alaska Court System piled on because they didn’t like taking cuts, either.

How did we get to this place?



I remember well when the price of oil dropped precipitously right after Democrat Gov. Steve Cowper was elected over Bill Sheffield in 1986 (after promising everything to everybody) he then declared: “All bets are off!” Alaska was saved from fiscal discipline this time by the Exxon Valdez disaster in Prince William Sound.

At the recent town hall Dunleavy reviewed the highlights of how Alaska got where we are at beginning with why we decided to form a Permanent Fund after blowing through the initial $900,000,000 from the 1969 North Slope Oil Lease sale.

That was phenomenal for a state whose budget at the time was only about $200 Million, said Dunleavy. People back then were very concerned that with more development we would potentially receive billions of dollars and continue to spend that money; not leaving anything for future generations.

I was there! I remember the concerns as they were discussed in the living room of Sen. Nick Begich, Sr. and Rep. Tom Fink, both Catholics on two sides of the Alaska Legislature political spectrum. They were able to have a civil conversation and it was all pie-in-the-sky to me. I was just out of East Anchorage high school and helping Begich take care of four kids (Nicky, Tom, Mark and Stephany) while building apartments near Boniface and Debarr Rd. with assistance from East High math teacher Ivan Harrison, a mutual friend.

We Alaskans were so naïve.

That’s how the Permanent Fund became part of the Alaska Constitution, Dunleavy continued. Jay Hammond and a lot of legislators were looking to the future and a lot of Alaskans came up with the Permanent Fund concept agreed to make it part of the constitution—to save some of that money.

The PFD program came later, in the early 1980s, and there continues to be a lot of discussion about what the purpose of the Permanent Fund Dividend is, and what the Permanent Fund Corporation was, continued the governor. From my review of the issue I believe the Permanent Fund was established to save money from finite resource development for future generations--for government and potentially for a dividend program. That’s why it was put in place.

But there’s more!

Two other things happened at this time when Alaskans really wanted to take control of spending; a spending limit was placed in 1981 that was supposed to reign in the spending of state government, said Dunleavy. The problem with that spending limit is the calculations and the formulas were very steeply inclined. So, your limits today would be about $9.7 Billion of state money while in fact our state government is spending about $4.6 Billion. Our total spend is now about $10 billion in combined state/federal money.

The governor's proposed constitutional amendment would update a law that hasn't worked.

Okay kids, what plan do you have? What do you think the governor should do? Should he just solicit bidders from anybody, anyplace for Alaska’s valuable resources and fund state government from savings like the last guy? Are there places in the formula where more can be gained from squeezing non-profits who seem to think they are ultimately entitled to the Permanent Fund?

Or should we just keep whistling past the graveyard?

A real teacher strives to empower students. A real leader tells the truth even when the conversation is difficult. Gov. Dunleavy is asking what Alaskans want instead of waiting until the annual Legislative train wreck coming soon-- providing few solutions and again leaving everybody pissed off.

Alaska's Economic Reality

  Our Economic Sweet Spot: The Mat-Su Valley   State Economist, Neil Fried recently explained the impact of the China Virus Pandemic to ...