NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's uplifting perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

Alaska’s right wing governor uses his line item veto pen to attack state universities

High­er edu­ca­tion is under attack in the State of Alas­ka like nev­er before — and the man lead­ing the charge is the state’s chief exec­u­tive, Mike Dun­leavy.

The Uni­ver­si­ty of Alas­ka is the biggest tar­get of Dunleavy’s line-item veto pen, los­ing $130 mil­lion in state sup­port atop the $5 mil­lion cut approved ear­li­er by law­mak­ers. The result­ing reduc­tion is near­ly 41% of the state’s sup­port for the uni­ver­si­ty sys­tem. Uni­ver­si­ty offi­cials said the cuts would be dev­as­tat­ing to the UA system.

“I believe they’re going to be able to work through this … I don’t believe they can be all things to all peo­ple, and I think that’s gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, the state of Alas­ka. We can’t con­tin­ue to be all things for all peo­ple,” the gov­er­nor said Fri­day morn­ing in a news con­fer­ence that was broad­cast statewide.

What Dun­leavy real­ly meant to say is that he does­n’t believe in the idea of pub­lic edu­ca­tion. Like so many rad­i­cal right wingers across this coun­try, he believes tax dol­lars should only be spent on cor­po­rate sub­si­dies, defense con­tracts, and law enforce­ment. All oth­er pub­lic ser­vices ought to be gutted.

The notion that the Uni­ver­si­ty of Alas­ka is “going to be able to work through” a forty per­cent cut is absurd, and demon­strates what a fool Dun­leavy is.

This is the kind of rev­enue hit the Uni­ver­si­ty sys­tem may nev­er recov­er from.

If the State of Alas­ka has a fore­most eco­nom­ic engine, it’s the Uni­ver­si­ty of Alas­ka. The Uni­ver­si­ty is a force for good jobs and eco­nom­ic pros­per­i­ty.

Dun­leavy does­n’t care about Alaska’s future or invest­ing in Alaska’s peo­ple. He only cares about his myopic, self-serv­ing, short term agen­da of aus­ter­i­ty measures.

Every­thing must be sac­ri­ficed in pur­suit of a fat­ter Per­ma­nent Fund Dividend.

Uni­ver­si­ty of Alas­ka offi­cials were aghast.

“There’s no ques­tion this bud­get — if not over­rid­den by the Leg­is­la­ture — would be dev­as­tat­ing to the uni­ver­si­ty and to our mis­sion and to the state and to our econ­o­my now and for years to come,” [Uni­ver­si­ty of Alas­ka Pres­i­dent Jim] Johnsen told the UA Board of Regents at an emer­gency meet­ing Friday.

Dunleavy’s veto of $130.25 mil­lion in state fund­ing for UA is on top of a $5 mil­lion cut already approved by the Legislature.

In total, that’s a 41% reduc­tion in state sup­port to the pub­lic uni­ver­si­ty sys­tem com­pared to last year. It’s the largest cut in the university’s 100-year his­to­ry, UA offi­cials said.


John Davies, chair­man of the UA Board of Regents, called the veto “com­plete­ly irre­spon­si­ble.” A cut that mas­sive must be phased in over sev­er­al years — not days before the fis­cal year starts, he said.

“To ask us to take a $135 mil­lion cut in one year? It’s just beyond the pale,” Davies said. “Whole chunks of the uni­ver­si­ty are going to have to dis­ap­pear, that’s the only way we can pos­si­bly bal­ance the bud­get. We don’t have any slush funds anywhere.

Here’s Johnsen’s let­ter to the uni­ver­si­ty community:

Uni­ver­si­ty of Alas­ka response to Dun­leavy attack on Alaska’s universities

Our team at NPI would like to see how well Dun­leavy oper­ates as Gov­er­nor of Alas­ka with a sud­den forty per­cent reduc­tion in the fund­ing for his office.

“The fun­da­men­tal ques­tion is now square­ly before Alaskans. What’s more impor­tant: a healthy econ­o­my, our schools, uni­ver­si­ty, and seniors, or dou­bling the Per­ma­nent Fund Div­i­dend at the expense of essen­tial state ser­vices? The gov­er­nor has made his choice clear,” wrote Alas­ka House Speak­er Bryce Edg­mon, I‑Dillingham, in a state­ment sharply crit­i­cal of Dun­leavy’s vetoes.

Alaska’s Leg­is­la­ture could over­ride some or all of the line item vetoes when it gath­ers for a spe­cial ses­sion next week. But that would require super­ma­jori­ties of each cham­ber of Alaska’s Leg­is­la­ture. Some of Dun­leavy’s allies would have to vote against him in order for sense and sen­si­bil­i­ty to prevail.

NPI stands with every­one who has risen up in oppo­si­tion to this dev­as­tat­ing attack on high­er edu­ca­tion in the State of Alas­ka.

We call on every leg­is­la­tor, whether Demo­c­ra­t­ic, Repub­li­can, or inde­pen­dent, to vote to over­turn this extreme­ly harm­ful, short­sight­ed bud­get veto.

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