Dunleavy, Begich spar on budget, crime in debate

Republican Mike Dunleavy, left, and Democrat Mark Begich participate in a debate on Thursday hosted by Alaska Public Media and KTUU Channel 2. (Video stills via Debate for the State)

Candidates to be Alaska’s next governor Mike Dunleavy and Mark Begich laid out different approaches to the state budget and crime at a debate Thursday.

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Begich, a Democrat, said the state must protect both Alaska Permanent Fund dividends and the fund’s earnings. He proposed putting much of the earnings into the main body of the fund, known as the corpus. That’s the part that’s protected under the state constitution.

“You got to put the PFD into the constitution,” he said. “The earnings reserve, which is a critical part of this … the legislators have access to this. You got to take that off the table, put it into the corpus. If you put it into the corpus, then the politicians cannot touch it.”

Dunleavy, a Republican, said he would pay out PFDs using the same formula used before 2016. It would have been nearly $3,000 this year. Dunleavy said he would focus on cutting the state budget first.

“When we get to the point where we manage the government well, the people of Alaska through transparency in budgeting see that we’re managing the government well, then we can have a discussion as to what revenue sources we need looking forward,” he said. “But until that point, I don’t think that the people of Alaska are ready to look at a tax or a permanent fund take.”

Much of the debate focused on crime. Both candidates said it’s the state government’s top priority in the next five years.

But they traded accusations over which branch of government is responsible for the rise in crime. Begich pointed to the Legislature, where Dunleavy served as a state senator. And Dunleavy blamed independent Gov. Bill Walker’s administration.

Begich spoke first:

“You were in the Legislature, as unemployment went up, when crime went up because of the cuts you did. Education is now 46th (in the country) because you spent the time cutting those budgets, and that’s why we are where we are today.”

Dunleavy responded:

“Crime did not go up because of the Legislature. Crime went up because of mismanagement over the past three to four years in this, the current administration. Management is the key to making sure that we have the focus, that we’re going to put the focus on public safety as job number one.”

Alaska Public Media and KTUU Channel 2 hosted the governor’s Debate for the State. They will hold a second debate Friday between Republican Don Young and Democratic nominee Alyse Galvin for Alaska’s U.S. House of Representatives seat.

Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.

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