Dermot Cole

Every story about Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s vetoes should start with his repeated promises as a candidate not to cut funding for the University of Alaska or for public schools. He lied.

With his decision Friday to gut the university by vetoing $130 million from its budget, Dunleavy sends a clear message to students—go to school in some other state. Find your future in some other state. If you want to compete against the best in the world, it won’t happen here.

He sends a clear message to those considering moving to Alaska and have opportunities elsewhere—Alaska doesn’t want you.

More inside

He sends a clear message that Alaska’s Tallest Governor is Alaska’s Worst Governor. His action Friday puts the university in a death spiral.

Dunleavy wanted the same for K-12 schools, but he can’t cut $320 million there, as he intended, because the Legislature and governor established the education budget for schools a year ago. There is no reason to expect that he won’t pull that stunt next year.

Dunleavy never mentioned any of this during his campaign, perhaps because he knew that if he told the truth to Alaskans he would never have been elected. The other possibility is that he had no idea what he was doing as a candidate and that Tuckerman Babcock and temporary budget director Donna Arduin have told him what to do.

In any case, the Legislature should stand up to Standing Tall and reject his UA veto and the rest of them, but it’s not clear the three-quarters of the legislators are competent enough to recognize what they should do.

If the veto is accepted, the University of Alaska should shut down at least one or maybe two of its three institutions in Juneau, Anchorage and Fairbanks. Dunleavy, through his temporary budget director, repeated lies and false statistics about university funding, a failed attempt to justify the veto.

Dunleavy has not offered a clear financial or policy plan for the state or a vision for Alaska’s future. Constantly yapping about the Permanent Fund Dividend seems to be the only part of his job that he has mastered.

He promised an easy approach during his campaign. He said the state could cut vacant positions, make Medicaid more efficient, consolidate heath insurance and produce $400 million or $500 million in savings. An increase in oil production would take care of everything and the state would be paying $1 billion more in dividends.

His imaginary budget plans received little media scrutiny and he got away with it. It was only after the election that he invented the story that as a candidate he was all about tough choices.

As he announced his vetoes of more than $400 million, Dunleavy claimed that he never promised easy fixes.

“We ran on a platform of trying to close this budget,” he said. “We’re focused on doing that. We’re using an approach in which we are reducing the size of government. We believe we can get there. It won’t be easy. But the other options were not going to be easy as well.”

In fact, Dunleavy, promised nothing but easy fixes, though most of the news coverage of the state budget debacle has skipped this key point. Amnesia is Dunleavy’s strongest ally.

Dermot Cole can be reached at


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