Brennan: Slower pay might be acceptable
By Tom Brennan |
Note to Governor Mike Dunleavy: you have my permission to pay me a regular Permanent Fund dividend this year and get caught up on the balance outstanding in future years.
This is a serious offer though I realize having one person volunteer— or even a few — won’t make much of a dent in a multibillion-dollar problem. But the governor already has a lot of people thinking hard about how the state will meet its obligations while spending a lot less money than in the past. Getting the job done will require insight and that is almost certain to be the overall result of the painful process.
One of the great things about the approach Dunleavy is taking is that people throughout the system are noodling the problem of how to get their jobs done while spending a lot less money. They almost certainly won’t get the whole job done this year but having managers and key employees throughout the system working on it should do a lot of good.
That effort will almost certainly identify problem sources and point the system in the right direction. And once the state’s managers get that kind of direction, they might just set Alaska on the right direction for an effective, well-managed system.
Unquestionably we are likely to lose some good people whose jobs are identified as optional, or who decide to move on to greener and more stable pastures, but the process seems almost certain to get things moving in a necessary direction in Alaska.
A friend came by my house for coffee the other day and our conversation quickly drifted to how the state’s budget options could be simplified.
One idea that surfaced is the question of why the University of Alaska has so many campuses spread over such a large area. Budgeteers may well find that the university is well-organized and its campuses are well-located, but since it has eight campuses spread over a vast area the question should be asked whether that makes sense.
The university has sizable campuses in Fairbanks, Anchorage and Juneau with smaller community campuses in Kenai, Kodiak, the Mat-Su, Prince William Sound, Sitka and Ketchikan. It seems to be doing a fine job but at times like this the question needs to be asked whether it is over-stretched and could do its job with fewer people and less real estate.
One obvious problem that must be addressed with all state government organizations is whether they have outgrown their range of effectiveness when money was available and proposed growth was still deemed a good idea. Obviously yesteryear.
Such good ideas sometimes don’t look the same when money is tight and every location, every job, must be justified once again. That can be frustrating for those who must fight the same battles over and over, but times like these are fortunately rare.
Governor Dunleavy’s approach of handing the problem to those closest to it is a good one. And the notion of paying a full Permanent Fund dividend this year and repaying all for the amounts they were shorted in 2016, 2017 and 2018 is a nice idea. But the Legislature, in whose lap the problem now rests, may find that a slower pay on the missing past dividends would be acceptable to most Alaskans.
As they used to say, I’d rather have them owe it to me than cheat me out of it.