Pass the popcorn

It is refreshing to watch a governor who is confident he knows what the state needs and is willing to buck the Legislature to get it.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy is doing just that. He has served notice on lawmakers that if they balk at passing his three proposed constitutional amendments and crime legislation there will be no deal on the budget.

His proposed spending plan, which cuts $1.6 billion without taxes or using the Permanent Fund, has sent shivers through the House, which sees a $10.2 billion state operating budget. Dunleavy proposes an $8.8 billion budget, plus a dividend of about $3,000, or twice what the House proposes.

To get to any sort of budget, Dunleavy says, the Legislature must pass constitutional amendments tightening the state’s existing constitutional spending cap, requiring voter approval of new taxes and enshrining the Permanent Fund dividend calculation.

He says there is no reason to adopt revenue-generating legislation, such as taxes, without curbing spending so that it simply does not increase almost automatically each year.

The dividend calculation, in particular, has been a bugaboo for Dunleavy, who says it is the law and should be followed in determining the size of the payout. A statutory formula was used to determine the dividend from 1982 to 2015. In 2016, citing Alaska’s yawning budget deficit, then-Gov. Bill Walker vetoed half the payment, a move upheld by the Alaska Supreme Court. Not to be outdone, the Legislature for the next two years also ignored the formula, cutting the payment by about half.

It will be interesting to see who blinks first down the road, but from where we sit Dunleavy is on the right track. This is a state, after all, that has $1.6 billion more government than it can afford.

Pass the popcorn.

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