JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said he wants to follow through on campaign promises, including reducing state spending and declaring “war” on criminals.
“I’m governor today because of the campaign promises I made to the people of Alaska on the issues most of us believe in,” Dunleavy said Tuesday in his first State of the State speech. “I’m here to do exactly what I promised to do.”
The Republican, speaking before a joint session of the Legislature, said the days of “wish list” budgeting are over.
Dunleavy’s budget office has projected a $1.6 billion deficit for the coming fiscal year, and Dunleavy has said he would work to ensure spending matches revenues.
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Dunleavy said his administration will focus on “the basic functions of government” and realign programs to prioritize agency responsibilities. The speech did not delve into budget specifics, something legislators have eagerly awaited.
Rep. Neal Foster, a Nome Democrat, said he is concerned about cuts to essential services on tops of cuts that already have been made. Foster, who was elected temporary speaker while the House works to organize a majority, said he looks forward to more details from the administration.
Dunleavy said he plans to propose constitutional amendments next week that would provide the basis of a fiscal plan, dealing with spending limits, taxes and the annual check Alaskans receive from the state’s oil-wealth fund, the Alaska Permanent Fund. There already is a constitutional spending limit but critics have seen it as too lax.
The dividend was capped the last three years amid a budget deficit, and for the first time last year, lawmakers began using permanent fund earnings to help pay for state government. The Legislature also passed a law seeking to limit how much can be drawn from earnings for government and dividends, creating a newfound tension.
Dunleavy previously proposed paying a so-called full dividend this year, in line with the calculation that hasn’t been followed since 2016, and paying back money Alaskans missed out on when checks were capped. The latter would be paid over three years and come with some eligibility strings.
He also said there should be no change to taxes or the current dividend formula without a vote of the people. Proposed constitutional amendments need two-thirds support in each the House and Senate to go to a public vote.
He said to win the people’s trust “we must trust the people.”
Dunleavy’s office said the measure dealing with taxes would require a vote of the people to establish or increase taxes. Alaska has no statewide sales or personal income tax. It does, however, have oil and gas production and other types of industry taxes.
Dunleavy, a former state senator, said he also plans to introduce legislation to roll back a sprawling 2016 criminal justice overhaul that some saw as too soft on crime. In response to public outcry over crime, lawmakers made changes to the law. But Dunleavy during the campaign said people had lost faith in the overhaul and was joined in his calls for repeal by some legislative candidates.
Last summer, then-Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan said rising crime rates coincided with declining state budgets, fewer public safety personnel and the opioid epidemic.
Dunleavy said he wants to provide ways for those who have gotten involved with opiates or other drugs to “break this habit” and “be productive individuals.” But he said Alaska will become a dangerous place for criminals.
“No more coddling, no more excuses. Your days are over,” he said.
Rep. Dave Talerico, a Healy Republican, noted Dunleavy’s focus on public safety and his calls for restoring trust in government. Talerico called the speech sincerely delivered.