Mike Dunleavy, sitting on top of an oversized Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend check. Picture credit to: Anchorage Daily News.

Basic income yes, but not at any cost. The alarm comes from Alaska, where governor Mike Dunleavy has announced cutting his 2020 state budget by as much as $410 million, one-third of which will fall upon the University of Alaska. To the University, that represents 41 percent of its own annual budget, which means that, if applied, these cuts would render the state’s university unrecognizable. Dunleavy calls this move a “policy choice” linked to his professed promise to increase the Permanent Fund dividend Alaskans benefit each year.

Arguably, consequences for the Alaskan economy, and particularly for the state university, would be devastating.

The University President, James R. Johnsen, has stated that this “will strike an institutional and reputational blow from which we may likely never recover.” And the implications for the wider Alaskan economy and even throughout the world may be far reaching since research has shown that investing in universities has considerable positive effects on the economy, and also because the University of Alaska is a core centre of research for Arctic issues. This is particularly important these days, in the middle of a climate crisis).

These budget cuts from Dunleavy’s Office are, however, rooted in a deeper rationale and tradition. That is because politics in Alaska of late have been largely tied to oil money, and the collection of taxes has been scarce, or nonexistent.

Michael Howard, professor at the University of Maine and specialist in basic income related policies, has stated on Facebook:

“A better framing of the problem in Alaska would include Alaska’s lack of an income tax, reliance on oil revenue to fund state government, and the steady decline of the oil revenue. Alaskans don’t have to abandon the dividend in order to fund the University. They just need to pay income taxes like people in most other [US] states. However, this story does vividly illustrate that universal cash payments in practice always need to be evaluated in comparison to the competing policies for government spending and the budget constraints. Slashing the university budget by 41% ought not to be an option.”

More information at:

Cas Mudde, “Alaska’s governor is trying to destroy its universities. The state may never recover”, The Guardian, July 6th 2019