Nikiski legislator hires former Alaska budget director Donna Arduin as policy advisor

a woman in a striped shirt
Donna Arduin answers questions from the press about the governor’s ten-year budget plan in 2019. (Skip Gray/360 North)

A former Alaska budget director who was known for her budget-slashing policies is joining the staff of Nikiski Republican Rep. Ben Carpenter this session.

Donna Arduin worked in Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s office between 2018 and 2019 and was the architect behind his plan to cut over $1 billion in state spending to close the state’s budget deficit. Carpenter said she’s in Juneau now and working as his full-time policy adviser.

“And she is going to help me look at long-term fiscal policy planning from a fiscal conservative point of view,” Carpenter said.

In her nearly 10 months in Juneau, Arduin worked with Dunleavy to propose a budget that would’ve drastically cut spending to the public school system, Medicaid and the ferry system, among other state-sponsored programs. Before her stint in Alaska, Arduin directed budget teams in several states, including California and Michigan. She returned to Juneau in 2020 to lead a budget seminar for legislators and legislative candidates.

Carpenter said he and Arduin — listed as Donna Kauranen on the legislative staff sheet — are not focusing on the budget, but rather longer-term policy issues that he said often get lost in the annual budget cycle.

“We’ll have our say with the budget, right? It’s still a focus, still a priority and important to me,” Carpenter said. “But we’re not going to get systemic change — what we might call institutional change … in an annual budget document.”

Carpenter chairs the House Ways and Means committee, which makes decisions about taxation and state spending policies.

He said he wants to work with Arduin to have conversations about the long-term fiscal health of the state, including questions about the Permanent Fund dividend and Alaska’s revenue shortfall. He said now that he’s in the House majority and has more years of experience under his belt, he’s in the right spot to do so — and that Arduin will help him get there.

“She brings the experience I lack in some of the specifics of fiscal policy,” Carpenter said. “I have a general idea of what it is that I want to accomplish; she has experience under multiple governors and different legislators over the last couple decades to bring examples of things that might work to the table, and we discuss it and bring about a policy recommendation.”

Carpenter said Arduin was hired as a range 23 state employee — meaning she’s making a base of $45.17 per hour, near the top of the legislative staff payscale.

Carpenter said this week, the House Ways and Means Committee is going to pick up the work of a fiscal policy working group formed during the last legislative session. The bipartisan group put out an ambitious set of recommendations, including a proposed PFD formula, but none of them were picked up by the broader legislature before the session ended.

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