Behind the Landscape on Alaska's Politics & Culture


March 6, 2013

Mayor Sullivan: Anchorage Budget and tax increases are the city’s highest after Mayor Begich

MOA 2012 Revenues

Did you know that the four budget years under Republican Mayor Sullivan and Democrat Assembly Chair Ernie Hall’s leadership, Anchorage is experiencing the second highest budget growth of all the past Mayors?


Only Democratic Mayor Mark Begich deserves the honor and holds the award of being number one in the city’s history to immensely increase every budget during his years as Mayor.

MOABudgets00-13-Assembly-Line Chart

AK INSIDER heard on talk radio the other day that the Anchorage Assembly holds the “purse strings” to the Municipality of Anchorage Budget spewing heaps of praises and admiration for Anchorage Mayor Sullivan who deserves credit for doing everything to decrease the budget. The edification continued with talk about the budget woes that are beyond Mayor Sullivan’s control. The rant continued that our Mayor is grappling with the previous Mayor Begich’s labor union contract’s and built an argument that Sullivan is blameless for not decreasing spending in the past few years.

 Sounds like Republican pundits who say President Obama is still blaming Bush after four years.

This was an “Interesting, entertaining and engaging” conversation between the morning Republican radio talk show host and East Anchorage Assembly Member Adam Trombley. Trombley either was trying to educate the city folks on the role of Municipal branches of government and our budget pitfalls, or he was the Mayor’s spokesperson surreptitiously announcing that the budget is increasing again with this April’s 1st Quarter Budget reviews.

As Mr. Trombley eloquently detailed the complexities of why the MOA Budget continues to rise and the taxpayers pay more; the talk show host uttered about the budget, “The devil is in the details,” and then cut him off.Trombleydebate

Mr. Trombley is correct about the Assembly’s role in the budget process; there is no doubt he is one to be blamed…and Birch, Starr, Johnston; others that claim the title of conservative; but more like current Republican talk and inaction.

Local Republican talk radio churns out constant rhetoric reminding us that the “conservatives” have the power on the Anchorage Assembly. AK INSIDER disagrees, Republicans have the power.

Why is the Anchorage Municipal budget the second highest in the last four years and still increasing?

AK INSIDER says the process is simple and political, beyond using the Begich labor contracts as an excuse. It is something more like this: 

  1. The Mayor presents the city revenues and expenditures forecast called the budget
  2. Republican like-minded Assembly Members support the Mayor’s budget, cut a couple of thousand dollars and boast they cut the budget; The Mayor campaigns for their re-election  
  3. Democratic opposition Assembly Members, disapprove of the Mayor’s budget; compromise with the Mayor to pass the budget if he does not fight them on their additions; Mayor compromises, budget gets passed and they campaign on how they improved city services in our community
  4. Everybody happy, the budget gets passed; and,
  5. TAXPAYERS pay more

As Trombley said, the Assembly holds the purse strings and the current budget did pass. This April an opportunity to reverse the cycle of increase is here.

The solution is simple to lower the original 2103 budget assuming talk radio’s version that the Republicans have the power on the Assembly is correct: 

  1. Anchorage Assembly sets the mill rate below the level to fund the Mayor’s current 2013 budget.
  2. Mayor goes back and; a. Meets the Assembly budgetary reductions; or, b. Stands by his original budget; and the fight begins

There lies the problem. To fight for the taxpayers and cut the Municipal budget the Anchorage Assembly must have Members whom will “FIGHT.”

The last time any Assembly member voted “NO” on a final budget proposed by a Mayor was during the Begich Administration in 2006 by Members Bauer and Sullivan. The Assembly enjoyed a Republican/conservative super majority; but the historical record increase of $61 million budget in one year by Begich still passed with Republicans and Independent-Democrat Dan Coffey approving the increase.

Even with Dan Sullivan as Assembly Chair following that record budget year, the “R’s” allowed Begich budgets to grow.

That is another story.

What is talk radio and Assembly Republicans like Trombley doing to hold their Republican Mayor accountable for the budget increases? How will they have him live up to the conservative label that they and others have given him, and the Mayor so graciously espouses?

Remember the Republican talk-radio host, the Republican Assembly Members and the Mayor have another opportunity in April 2013 to decrease the budget and hold the line on raising taxes. Better yet be the first to lower taxes. 

About the Author

Chief Editor
Paul Bauer has served in various positions on Anchorage community boards, commissions and councils in and out of elected office with over a decade of business management experience after serving 22 years of national service. His background includes living in and visiting many diverse communities around the United States, Europe with small excursions to the Pacific that had him working with culturally diverse groups of people most of his life. As an Assembly Member he was one Member that voted against Mayor Mark Begich's costly budget increase; the largest spending budgets in the city's history; raising awareness to get a public discussion on illegal immigration in the city and removing the city's "Sanctuary City" status; bringing public awareness of the Mayor's lavish spending and his conflict of interest with his family's gift shop on the “E Street” road improvement project.


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