Dermot Cole

Dermot Cole

Gov. Mike Dunleavy claims that that Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals “can try to eliminate the Second Amendment, but I won’t let that happen on my watch.”

Dunleavy made this desperate plea for the attention of Fox News in a press release announcing the state would add its name to the list of 21 other states in a court case regarding a California law banning high-capacity ammunition magazines.

But there is a problem on his watch. The case is not “Duncan v. Rodriguez,” as Dunleavy says in his press release. It’s “Duncan v Becerra.”

Dunleavy is making it a habit to try to stand tall on issues that carry zero political risk and hold some appeal to his right-wing fans.

In recent days he has talked tough about Major League Baseball, for moving the All-Star Game; President Joe Biden, for calling for a mask mandate; and Rep. Ilhan Omar, claiming it was “truly despicable” of her to mention the AR-15 in a comment about the deadly attack on a Capitol police officer.

Dunleavy is not writing this grandstanding piffle himself—that campaign chore falls to communication employees who don’t have enough to do.

The state should not be wasting money this way, but Dunleavy is preparing for the 2022 election, desperate to avoid all talk—tough or otherwise—about the real challenge the state faces—Alaska’s budget and how to pay for services while saving the Permanent Fund.

The future of the fund is in doubt because Dunleavy has not made the difficult decisions necessary to preserve it. He will say he favors a giant dividend and opposes taxes, but won’t say how the pieces of the state budget fit together. They don’t.

He’d much rather bemoan cancel culture, clear the way for snowmachines and ATVs on roads or complain about the federal government than take any unpopular steps to deal with the immense deficit.

This misdirection campaign appears to be working with editorial writers in Anchorage and Fairbanks who cheered his overheated edict about submerged lands. It’s a “statement of purpose that Alaska will no longer cede its rightful authority to a federal government that may not share the state’s values,” the Anchorage Daily New gushed.

Not to be outpuffed, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner said, “the federal government has diverted, dawdled and delayed when it came to acknowledging Alaska’s rights to manage its navigable rivers and lakes, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy now has put President Joe Biden on notice those days have passed.”

It would be more accurate to say that Dunleavy continues to cede his authority on the budget to the authority of inertia, diverting, dawdling and delaying with a fiscal plan that consists of draining the earnings reserve of the Permanent Fund.

An infusion of billions from the federal COVID-19 bailout package will make the transition out of the pandemic easier for Alaska this year and beyond, but the imbalance in state finances remains a serious threat, one the governor is ignoring.

It’s as irresponsible as what he tried two years ago, when Anchorage pundit Paul Jenkins crowned Dunleavy an “accidental genius,” or, at worst, “crazy like a fox,’ for his handling of the budget.

“Nobody who cast a vote for him should be surprised he is trying to rightsize government,” said Jenkins.

“His audacious promise to sop up the red ink without imposing taxes or stripping Alaskans of their full dividend has the gobsmacked Left baying in full throat,” Jenkins said.

That was not the fiscal fantasy that Dunleavy ran on, but then again, Jenkins was the only one who spotted an Accidental Genius at work.

The AG was a creature of the short-lived Arduin era, when Dunleavy said expenditures would not exceed revenues on his watch. He insisted that he would see it through.

“The days of spending everything we have and avoiding the tough decisions for our future must end,” Dunleavy said in 2019.

Then the recall movement arrived and Dunleavy retreated to his budget corner, where he has remained ever since, watching and waiting and avoiding tough decisions.

Expenditures far exceed revenues, yet he won’t propose any taxes or try to eliminate any major programs to balance the budget. This won’t end well for Alaskans.

Every day that passes on Dunleavy’s watch without action or leadership from the top, Alaska’s options grow narrower, making the situation that much more difficult for the next governor.

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