Governor Walker unlimbered his veto pen yesterday (June 29, 2016) on the budget passed by the legislature that cut $418 million from this year’s proposed spending. Walker targeted the Permanent Fund Dividend, capping it at $1,000 this year, production tax credits owed to the producers, public education, and a set of other line item vetoes totaling some $1.29 billion.
The majority of these cuts were in three areas: A $666 million cut in the PFD; $430 million owed the producers via tax credits; and $58 million out of public education. He also cancelled eight highway construction projects totaling $250 million. See ADN
The 60% cut to the PFD presents elected Democrats and Tom Begich’s expected “throw ‘em all out” campaign this fall with a problem. When the legislature returns in July to the second special session, I expect the majority to make an attempt to override the veto. I also expect that attempt to fail via votes by the minority. This leaves the majority in the interesting position of protecting the PFD program, while both elected Democrats and Democrat challengers will have supported cutting it. Historically, the PFD has been a powerful tool in election campaigns. Unless there is something else really sneaky going on (always a possibility with this crowd), I think Walker just shot his party in the foot.
The vilest veto was the veto of tax credits owed the producers. This is the second time in two years that Walker has allowed his visceral hatred of the oil companies to override his obligations to pay what this state owes. I can think of no better way to escort the producers out of Alaska and shut down new oil production going into the TAPS. Walker has turned Alaska into a terrible place to do business. Nice job, that.
Walker also cancelled the Knik Arm Bridge and all work on the Watana Dam. The Knik Arm Bridge is going to be funded via bonds and federal money with little state money involved. Cancelling the Watana Dam shuts down any attempt to move Southcentral Alaska onto a renewable energy source for half its electricity. Apparently roads and dams are great for Southeast (including Juneau) but not allowable for the Railbelt. Fine. I have no problem paying PacRim or Usibelli to produce coal to fire electric generation, as we have a lot of coal. Local greens are cheering the vetoes rather than thinking what they really put into place.
Finally, the education vetoes are too little, too late. If Walker was a man of his convictions, he would slash state education spending and voucher it out to parents of those who would attend the government schools.
This is what we get when we give in to the politics of envy as a State. Walker and the Democrats were put into power by the unions and via the Backbone group whose saying during his campaign two years ago was “Alaska First.”
It’s really not Alaska First with these people. Rather it is the unions first. State government first. Public employee unions first. The rest of us who actually work for a living can go hang.
There is an old H.L.Menken observation, “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” We here in Alaska under this Governor, his union and Democrat backers are about to get it good and hard. But at least we will have a shiny new white elephant of a natural gas pipeline with no market for whatever they end up moving through it.
Alex Gimarc lives in Anchorage since retiring from the military in 1997. His interests include science and technology, environment, energy, economics, military affairs, fishing and disabilities policies. His weekly column “Interesting Items” is a summary of news stories with substantive Alaska-themed topics. He is a small business owner and Information Technology professional.
thumbnail image courtesy of Alaska Journal