Contributed by Wes Keller
I offer condolences instead of congratulations to our new Governor Mike Dunleavy. The thrill of victory is muted when you consider the formidable task before him. On one hand, because of our constitution, he has arguably won the most powerful governorship in America, in terms of constitutional authority. On the other, he has inherited the nation’s likely most powerful “puppet master”, and this master fully intends to pull his strings! Alaska has an extremely powerful, entrenched administrative/judicial cartel, which must be controlled before realistic values of spending can be assessed. The ugly ritual of a new governor’s transition (resignations and firings) is pending. Our new governor truly has a huge challenge approaching.
The “Juneau swamp” is the portion of the state government system that is over-protective of itself and resistant to diets. This swamp is formidable, arrogant, and very determined to protect its revenue streams. Admittedly, some state employees understand the need to do a real budget balance, but they are not the ones who visibly lobby governors and legislators for special spending consideration. Just listen to their voices in each annual budget war. You will never hear an appeal for less spending… only more revenue! They euphemize their greed; by insisting what they really want is a “fiscal plan”… one insuring their access to the “feeding trough” filled with our natural resources. The “swamp” is huge, influential, prominent, and accustomed to expansion. Government obesity proves swamp success. One out of four Alaskan workers (24.2%) are government employees!
Governor Dunleavy is now the figurehead CEO of the huge, influential public enterprises (Health, Social Services, Education, Law…). Whether it was cause or effect, these enterprises have, over time, been empowered to ‘legislate’: creating Alaskan “Administrative Code”, which arguably eclipses Legislative Code. These state regulations have been woven into a hopeless tangle with federal regulations. The agencies take the “bribe” (money with strings) and ultimately, Alaska State sovereignty, by submitting to federal controls! The tangled mess allows the swamp to insist much of our spending is for “entitlements”. The puppet master (swamp) is confident that once again, the new puppet governor will have no choice! We will see.
This unhappy state of affairs evolved partly because of a combination of unchallenged factors:
- A full 80% of our natural resource proceeds provide the “easy money” to fund government. This means the majority of the state budget has no political “cost”, the restraining dynamic of needing legislative tax laws. Annual tax laws are not needed in Alaska, because our constitution funds the government with our natural resources (which I call “pre-tax revenue”).
- A blurring of the distinction between the Executive and Judicial branches. They are joined at the hip enabling them to overpower “We the People” as represented in the Legislative Branch.
- A prominent mantra of our judicial system is, “justice not politics”, based on the “Missouri Plan”. I believe it takes good “politics” to prevent judicial abuse and protect the influence and interests of common people. Alaskans need to have more say in our judicial selection (judges), judicial salaries, and citizen’s rights.
- Our State Capitol, the place where the governing happens, is remote and obscure to the population center. Yet, it is “heresy” in the swamp to even discuss a location change.
Also, those of us who voted for Dunleavy must honestly admit to suffering classic “Cognitive Dissonance”! We want the stability of sustainable government, but also want the false prosperity that comes from government overspending. In the short term, we love it! Reflect, for example, on any new commercial construction sites in your community. Much of it is driven by government health care or education spending! At what point in this discussion do we discover our personal conflicts of interest? (Salaries, health welfare payments (Medicaid), government service contracts, secure daycare, public education . . .) We all share in the false prosperity and want to keep it while we also want Governor Dunleavy to reduce spending to ensure sustainability!
I am suggesting the controlling interests in the Alaskan governing swamp may bankrupt us if we don’t get behind Governor Dunleavy, even when our personal “fat cow” may be gored in the process! Be prepared for an intense transitional “house cleaning”, essential to secure a new management team, that’s serious about balancing! Don’t lobby Gov. Dunleavy for a job in his administration unless you are willing to “die” for the common good, because it’s a battle with real consequences. With unselfish help, Gov. Dunleavy can get this done! The recent House leadership organization proposal is very encouraging news leading into this transition period… Remember, “We the people” are irrevocably the sovereigns of Alaska’s government!