Balancing Alaska’s budget is getting so hard that it hurts. Here’s one citizen’s plan.

Illustrations by Alaska cartoonist Peter Dunlap-Shohl help to explain the fiscal challenge citizens and policy makers face in Alaska’s near future. (Peter DunlapShohl)

As Cliff Groh puts it, he’s studied how the State of Alaska “collects, saves and pays out money” for 40 years. As a legislative aide in 1982, he worked on creating the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend. Five years later, as a special assistant to the commissioner of revenue, he worked on the successful effort to pass legislation raising net oil taxes. He’s been a participant and delegate to forums and conferences organized by Alaska governors to puzzle out our collective financial future, and even taught a class at UAA called “Navigating Alaska’s Fiscal and Economic Challenges.”

Over the decades, Cliff saw the problem looming. He tried to warn us — with public forums, community gatherings, newspaper op-eds, Powerpoints … to no avail.

Now, watching our state’s fiscal aircraft hit the ground nose first, he’s trying one more strategy to engage and focus attention on Alaska’s fast-approaching fiscal disaster.

In a no-nonsense, straight-talking guide to our state’s fiscal story, he explains where the money in our state budget goes, how much we have saved, how long it will last, and strategies to avoid an ultimate crash, or what the cartoonist Peter Dunlap-Shohl calls a “controlled flight into terrain.” (See illustration above.)

HOST: Kathleen McCoy


  • Cliff Groh, author of a new guide to Alaska’s fiscal crisis


  • Navigating Alaska’s Fiscal and Economic Crisis, Cliff Groh website
  • Link to downloadable versions of his book-length, pocket-length, and graphic version (only 12 pages) of his analysis and proposed plan for Alaska, webpage
  • Paper by Cliff Groh: “History and options regarding the unfunded liability of Alaska’s public employees’ and teachers’ retirement system,” written for Institute for Social and Economic Research, link
  • ‘What Jennifer Granholm’s early career decisions can teach Alaska,” by Cliff Groh, Anchorage Press 12.23.20 (a lesson in not relying on your natural assets; Granholm selected by Biden for Energy Secretary)
  • Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s FY2020 budget and 10-year plan, Office of Management and Budget, 12.11.2020 (7-pg PDF)
  • Gov. Dunleavy proposes spending from savings to balance state budget and pay traditional PFD, Anchorage Daily News, 12.11.20
  • “Dunleavy-produced video exaggerates Permanent Fund 2020 gains,” Anchorage Daily News, 12.30.2020
  • Independent, critical coverage of state government, including the 2021 budget, Reporting from Alaska, journalist Dermot Cole’s blog

USEFUL DATES: Cliff Groh will speak publicly on the fiscal crisis

  • Wednesday, Jan. 13, 7 p.m. League of Women Voters on the Kenai Peninsula
  • Thursday, Jan. 14, Noon-1 p.m. Bartlett Political Forum
  • Thursday, Jan. 28, 5:30-7 p.m. Juneau legislative interns at University of Alaska Southeast
  • Sunday, Feb. 7, 9-10 a.m. Anchorage Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
  • Tuesday, Feb. 16, Noon-1 p.m. Sitka Rotary Club


  • Call 550-8433 (Anchorage) or 1-888-353-5752 (statewide) during the live broadcast (10-11 a.m.)
  • Send e-mail to before, during or after the live broadcast (e-mails may be read on air)
  • Post your comment or question below (comments may be read on air)
  • LIVE: Monday, Jan. 11, 2021 at 10 a.m
  • RE-AIR: Monday, Jan. 1, 2021 at 8 p.m.
  • PODCAST: On this page after the show

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kmccoy (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | About Kathleen