Name: Mike J. Dunleavy
District/Seat sought: Alaska Governor
Party Affiliation: Republican
Where were you born? Scranton, Pennsylvania
If you weren't born in Alaska, when did you come here? 1983
Age on election day: 57
If you've attended college, which schools did you attend? What's your highest degree achieved?
Misericordia University, B.A. in History
University of Alaska Fairbanks, Master’s in Education
What is or was your main career?
Public school teacher, principal and superintendent
If you've held or run for public office before, which one(s)?
Alaska State Senator, 2012 – 2018
Mat-Su Borough School Board President/Member, 2009 – 2012
If you have a spouse or significant other whom you live with, what is their name?
Rose. Married 31 years
If you have children, what are their first names and ages?
Ceil Anne 19
Why are you running for office?
I am running for governor because Alaska needs a new direction and new leadership. Our state is at a tipping point. We have the highest unemployment rate in the country at around 7 percent, much higher than the national average of 3.9 percent. The business network CNBC recently ranked all 50 states based on their climate for business, and Alaska was dead last.
Crime has skyrocketed to the point where Alaska is now the most dangerous state in the U.S. Our education testing scores are among the worst in the nation, even while the state’s per-pupil spending ranks higher than all but two states.
In 2017, our state’s population fell for the first time in 29 years, as more than 8,500 people abandoned Alaska, looking for a better quality of life elsewhere. These dismal trends will continue until we get new leadership.
What are the most important issues facing Alaska?
Growing the economy, developing our natural resources, eradicating criminal behavior, controlling state spending, and demanding better results from our schools. Too many elected officials in recent years have acted like their most solemn responsibility is to carefully manage Alaska’s decline. I’m not interested in managing Alaska’s decline. I’m interested in maximizing all this great state has to offer. Our problems are serious—but they are not intractable.
The starting point is to get our economy back on track. We need to aggressively develop our natural resources—oil and gas, mining, timber, tourism, fisheries, etc. This is the surest way to create family-wage jobs and generate new wealth for both the private sector and essential government services. We need to systematically remove obstacles that discourage economic development—and send a strong message to the world that Alaska is “open for business.”
What would you do to reduce crime in Alaska?
The current crime epidemic has multiple causes. The SB 91 crime bill signed into law by Governor Walker has certainly made our problems worse, and I support a full repeal of this troubled policy. We need to end “catch and release” of criminals and deliver swift and severe consequences for criminal behavior. Our police, prosecutors, and courts must be provided the resources to do their jobs effectively. We must not lose focus on the urgency of fixing Alaska’s economy, as our current recession creates a ripe environment for crime to proliferate.
The abuse of opioids and other drugs is a major component in our larger crime problem. It must be confronted on both the supply and demand fronts. I will seek stiffer penalties for drug dealers, and work with health care providers on reducing prescription opioid abuse. Confronting this problem will be among my top priorities as Governor.
Should dividends be paid under the original dividend formula?
Yes. I am the only candidate for Governor that supports paying Alaskans a full PFD, following the traditional statutory formula that worked well for decades and remains the law of the land. As a Senator, I voted against every attempt to change or reduce the PFD. As Governor, I will continue to protect the PFD. Governor Walker needlessly squandered the trust of Alaskans when he slashed their PFDs in half, and I was proud to sponsor legislation (SB 1) to restore the amount that was taken away.
The Permanent Fund is one component of state government that has worked well over the years. We should have left it alone. It was never broken, and therefore didn’t need “fixing.” Our budget woes were caused by excessive government spending, not the PFD program. Yet many politicians prefer to take the “easy way out” of slashing dividends instead of controlling state spending.
Should Permanent Fund earnings be used to pay for state government? How much?
The PFD calculation must remain as it always has been, unless changed by a vote of the people. I have long supported the traditional allocation with respect to Permanent Fund earnings, with 50 percent allocated for PFDs first and the remaining funds available, as per the law, for public services. Protecting the PFD is crucial for protecting the health of the entire Permanent Fund, because it creates an incentive for legislators to be frugal in spending the unrestricted funds in the earnings reserve account.
Alaskans want to see fiscal discipline, not a budget that grows faster than our state economy does. We need an effective constitutional spending cap to accomplish this goal. If Alaskans are paid a full PFD, the remaining funds in the earnings reserve can also be part of our budget solution, assuming we reduce our budget to a sustainable level and put limits on future spending growth.
What, if anything would you cut from the budget?
State government has a spending problem and a management problem. We must better manage our current programs and funding sources before asking Alaskans for new revenues. Audits must be conducted on all departments to identify waste, fraud, and duplication of services. It is estimated we could save several hundred million dollars by these steps, before any cuts are enacted.
We need a “back to basics” focus on public safety, schools, roads, and natural resource management. Our state payroll has no need for a “climate change advisor” who commutes from Seattle, or an “innovation stakeholder change manager” who was imported from Michigan. We must end impractical spending, such as allocating millions to study commuter rail in Mat-Su. Services must be provided with greater efficiency. For example, I introduced a bill to consolidate the health insurance programs for dozens of school districts, a move which could save tens of millions of dollars.
Should Alaska have new or increased taxes? What would you suggest?
We cannot tax our way to prosperity. I have consistently opposed the imposition of a state income tax. In fact, I have opposed all of the various tax proposals advanced by Governor Walker. Our government spends too much. In this environment, we need to manage what we have better before we ask the people of Alaska for more money – e.g., by increasing taxes or reducing the PFD.
There is an old saying in economics— “generally speaking, you get MORE of what you subsidize and LESS of what you tax.” If we place taxes on Alaska’s most productive job creators, will that create more jobs? No, it won’t. On the other hand, if we increase our subsidies to a government that’s already too big, is it reasonable to think that the result will be an even larger and more inefficient government? Yes, it’s reasonable to expect that result.
Have humans contributed to climate change, and if so, does the state bear any responsibility to undo some of the effects?
Climate change and its causes are worthy subjects for scientific study. However, I have not seen any scientific evidence to support the notion that Alaska can affect global climate by taking unilateral action to reduce carbon emissions. There is nothing to be gained and much to lose by pretending that Alaska, acting alone, can have an impact on this issue.
Governor Walker’s “Climate Change Task Force” is considering several proposals that, if implemented, would be devastating for our economy. These proposals would increase energy costs, inhibit development of our natural resources, harm our coal mining industry, and in general make Alaska less economically competitive – and all of this at a time we can least afford it. We need to focus on policies that will actually help Alaska’s working families, not hurt them.
Do you agree or disagree with Gov. Walker's decision to expand Medicaid in 2014? How much do you believe that decision cost the state treasury?
The decision to expand Medicaid was ill-advised. Let me be clear: every Alaskan should have access to quality health care. But we must better manage our health and social service programs. The news media frequently cite examples of waste and fraud .Medicaid exists to provide care for those who cannot afford it. Unfortunately, the program has been riddled with problems. By expanding Medicaid prior to fixing it, we are taking away from the neediestAlaskans, while incentivizing able-bodied adults to avoid work. This year Governor Walker had to come begging the Legislature for $93 million in supplemental funding for Medicaid, because costs were higher than expected. No one should have been surprised by this. We need to take a hard look at the program’s expansion and determine the best way forward.
As Governor, I will NOT define success based on growing the number of people who are dependent on government, but instead on growing the number of people who have no need for state assistance.