Donna Arduin, the Republican consultant known for overseeing slashed budgets in state after state, is no longer Alaska’s budget director.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s (R) office announced the news Monday, saying that Arduin would become an adviser in the state’s budget office until October, when she will be offered another potential contract as an adviser in a “reduced position.”
The massive cuts to Alaska’s budget that Arduin pushed earlier this year — affecting everything from a ferry service linking isolated coastal towns to the University of Alaska to Medicaid — prompted fierce backlash.
A recall effort targeting Dunleavy was announced shortly after he used his line-item veto to slash more than $400 million from the state’s budget, adding to hundreds of millions in earlier cuts approved by the legislature.
And though the governor eventually walked back some of the vetoed line items in August, the recall has gained steam.
Earlier this month, organizers submitted 49,000 signatures to state election officials, who will tally the names to confirm they clear the 28,501 needed to move on to another signature gathering phase and, after that, a statewide vote. Even Dunleavy allies, like the state GOP’s former spokesperson, have called the recall movement “serious.”
The decision to oust Arduin was “made unanimously within the leadership of the governor’s office,” Dunleavy’s chief of staff told reporters, Alaska Public Media reported. The staffer, Ben Stevens, said he didn’t think Arduin’s ouster was related to the Dunleavy recall effort.
In a July interview, Arduin hinted at plans to stay in the state more than a few months, saying Dunleavy’s team would “be looking towards reducing the budget another $700 million next year.”
Arduin’s reputation preceeded her.
In state after state over a multi-decade career, the budget consultant has overseen cuts — in California during Arnold Schwarzenegger’s tenure, in Illinois under Bruce Rauner, in Florida under Jeb Bush and in New York under George Pataki.
“I have no sympathy for people who want handouts from the government,” Arduin told Duke Magazine in a 2006 profile, adding separately, “I joined government to shrink it.”
Her start in Alaska was bumpy, literally. Just days after a powerful earthquake hit the state in November last year, Dunleavy signed an order centralizing budget authority in Arduin’s office. At that point, she’d lived in the state for two weeks.
Alaskans, wary of the outsider, have noted Arduin’s record of skipping from state-to-state. She lasted less than a year in both Illinois and California, her two most recent gigs.
“It was clear from the start that she would not be here long enough to collect a Permanent Fund Dividend,” the columnist Dermot Cole wrote Tuesday, referring to the cut of Alaska’s oil revenue given annually to residents who’ve lived in the state the entire previous calendar year.
“She has had a career as a short-timer, hired by Republican governors to cut the budget while keeping her suitcases ready to roll,” he added.
At an event sponsored by the Koch group Americans for Prosperity last spring, tribal consortium leader Melanie Bahnke was quoted telling Arduin, “Don’t use the word ‘our’ when referring to our people, our state and our issues.”
Political commentary has spilled into the arts as well.
Duleavy’s face, along with the President’s, was carved into a “shaming” totem pole last month by the Tlingit artist Tommy Joseph. In July, Alaskan Michael Howard posted a new folk song he’d written, addressed to Dunleavy, on YouTube.
“We know how your story ends, next year there’ll be no more dividends,” he sang. “And you’ll be down in Florida, on yer yacht with Donna Ar-du-in.”