Gov. Mike Dunleavy has been making speeches before the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce and other business groups around the state on the need for more resource development in the state. In particular, he has stressed the need for more projects to come online in the rural parts of Alaska and he has spoken of the good these projects can do for the rural communities that are close to where these projects will be developed
On the merits of the arguments the governor has been making, I could not agree with him more on the need for the state as a matter of public policy to continue developing our natural resources. Resource development has been the driver of the state’s economy for the last 40 years and it is the reason we have a modern industrial society
The roads, bridges, schools and other government services in our state have been paid for through resource development and that is not going to change for the foreseeable future. But in order for the state and local communities to continue reaping the tax revenue benefits and the economic benefits from such development the governor has to examine a few barriers to this development. One area that the governor has authority over is to order the state Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Corrie Feige to begin a programmatic review of all the regulations her department has put out in the last 20 years
The purpose of this is to see if there is any duplication in the regulations, if any regulations are out of date and, most importantly, if there are any regulations that are hindering projects that are trying to come online. If there are problematic regulations in place then Feige should be empowered by the governor to repeal those regulations and put forward new ones that meet the state’s economic interest
The second thing that the governor needs to do to ensure a strong resource development economy is to get serious about supporting science and math education in our state. Just this past year the governor went to war against the University of Alaska system which resulted in a public relations disaster for him and galvanized the people of Alaska against his administration. He needs to step back from last year’s radicalism and realize that if he wants to make any positive headway he has got to take a measured approach and he needs to get serious about other policy issues
Since the governor was sworn in all he has spent any time speaking on is the budget and what he believes has to be done with the budget. He has spent no time discussing other areas of public policy, which are just as important, if not more important, than the budget. Education policy is key for the state in many ways; first and foremost it is education policy which drives economic policy. In order for that state to have a strong and vibrant resource development economy it has to have a certain number of engineers graduating from college to provide the technical support to resource extraction industries.
The governor should be pushing for science and math education with the goal of getting more engineers graduating from state universities. He could be a champion for overhauling our K-12 education system so that there is a more intensive approach to math and science education so that kids in high school are prepared for engineering programs when they get to college. If the governor does not develop a comprehensive plan in regards to where he wants to see math and science education in the state then all his speeches on resource development are meaningless. He needs to begin working with House and Senate leadership on a broad based piece of legislation relating to math and science education
If he starts this year he will get public support and legislative support and could end up with a key victory that would go a long way to cooling the recall fire. The question is whether or not his policy team will move in that direction and whether he will engage the legislature on this
Only time will tell and the clock is ticking.