Gov. Mike Dunleavy delivered his third State of the State address on Thursday in a pre-recorded virtual speech to the people of Alaska, focusing on self reliance, energy independence, maximizing the opportunity for resource development and other programs. Dunleavy began by noting the one year anniversary of the first plane of American citizens that landed in Anchorage from China at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“From that first night we committed to handling the virus and it’s fallout without politicizing it, without partisan bickering. We were one in our battle against this poorly understood foe. Today and against all odds Alaska leads the way in testing and vaccinations we enjoy the third lowest mortality rate in the nation,” said Dunleavy. “None of this would have occurred without your help and the tireless work of Alaska’s health team, Commissioner Adam Crum, Dr. Anne Zink, Dr. Heidi Hedberg, Dr. Joe McLaughlin and the thousands of public servants and frontline heroes working overtime month after month right up until today.”
Dunleavy brought up inaccurate estimates of how many Alaskans would be hospitalized or die due to the virus at the start of the pandemic and called on his time in rural Alaska hearing stories from elders who lived through 1918.
“Because of what we accomplished together, Alaska’s response was recently recognized as the best in the nation,” said Dunleavy.
Dunleavy noted the 260 nursing graduates from the University of Alaska Anchorage able to graduate on time with help from 300 suspended regulatory measures. Dunleavy praised the work of local businesses that stepped up to make swabs, hand sanitizer, and care for one another. Over 400 contact tracers were trained and 2,400 case of COVID-19 discovered at airports as the first traveler testing program stood up in the United States. Dunleavy then began detailing the economic impacts of COVID-19, praising the Legislature for working with Dunleavy’s administration to pass a spending plan within two weeks that distributed relief to over 200 communities and 6,000 businesses, as well as over $1 billion in unemployment distributed to over 100,000 Alaskans. Dunleavy called on the legislature to pass his proposed budget containing a Permanent Fund Dividend of nearly $5,000 for every eligible Alaskan.
“We are fortunate that we have the tools to greatly assist Alaskans in their time of need, but we do need to act quickly. As part of my path forward for Alaskans, I’m asking that $5 billion, a portion of the earnings of this past year be put toward pulling Alaskans out of a crisis the likes of which this generation has never faced. This is a once in a lifetime budget for once in a lifetime disaster. A portion of this relief will provide every eligible Alaskan with $5,000 equally, the remainder of last year’s PFD and the full statutory dividend for 2021,” said Dunleavy.
Dunleavy noted his proposal to provide PFD payments in the form of land vouchers, lowering the amount drawn from the Earnings Reserve to pay out dividends. Dunleavy’s main proposal for new revenue to close the state’s fiscal gap was to legalize the gaming industry in Alaska. Dunleavy argued that permitting gaming licenses would create high paying jobs and tap into a revenue stream that other states take advantage of. Dunleavy also noted his proposal of a $350 million bond package to put Alaskans pack to work and focus on energy upgrades, critical infrastructure and roads to resources. Dunleavy also said that Alaska was closer than ever before to a privately funded gas line to the North Slope.
“A gas line led by private industry would be an absolute game changer and a chance to once again show the world that energy independence and protecting our environment are not mutually exclusive,’ said Dunleavy.
Dunleavy also spent time defending his proposed Constitutional Amendments for a spending cap, a vote of Alaskans on any new tax increases and a vote for any changes to the PFD.
“My proposal guarantees dividends for future generations and ensures our state can continue to function as well,” said Dunleavy. “Alaskans have always been a different breed. We’ve been hardened with the passage of time and adversity through generations. Very few come to the last frontier hoping to live a life of luxury. We cherish a challenge of building a future in the most rugged, beautiful and resource laden sub continent on earth.”
Dunleavy noted the extremely high costs of energy in Alaska and pushed for energy independence, harnessing tidal, goethromal, and wind energy. Dunleavy said that he would defend Alaskans right to develop traditional energy resources and requested that the legislature set aside $ 4 million to defend statehood and sovereignty against Federal overreach.
“I reject the false premise between protecting the environment and developing our economy. This is the argument of outsiders who seek to divide us for their own benefits. These individuals and groups that sing the siren song of division, of non development, of scare tactics in order to kill opportunity aren’t doing this because they care about our great state. Remember in many cases they’re doing it for their own special interests. We know better than anyone that we can develop our resources so that a clean environment and prosperity are two sides of the same coin,” said Dunleavy. “Let me also be direct with those who are committed to destroying Alaska by preventing our right to develop our resources, make no mistake about it, I’ll continue to fight for Alaska’s destiny as long as I have the honor of serving you as Governor. That’s my promise to you.”
In promoting Alaska’s ability to be independent, highlighted by the dire uncertainty at the start of the pandemic, Dunelavy proposed that Alaska research the possibility of becoming a sovereign to weather disasters of food security, energy production, and pharmaceutical production. Dunleavy proposed to decrease regulation and allow for farmers to more easily secure land as well as searching for regulations that limit innovation. Dunleavy said that regulations suspended during the pandemic would be examined to determine if they were necessary.
“I’ve charged my administration with researching how Alaska can become more self reliant within the framework of federalism.Part of becoming a truly self reliant sovereign starts with the basics, food security, energy and medicine,” said Dunleavy. “We have to examine our own vulnerabilities and reevaluate our dependence upon others. While we must continue to be an exporter of resources, we must also ensure that we have the capabilities to create and enhance new sectors of our economy to go it alone in the event of a future disaster.”
Dunleavy also proposed new education spending by offering further assistance to families that wish to homeschool their children. Homeschooling in Alaska began at 11 percent and doubled due to COVID-19. Dunelavy also proposed a Governor’s Office of Reading Instruction that would be temporary in nature and ensure that Federal relief dollars were properly being spent on improving test scores. Dunleavy also proposed summer camps to boost math, reading and coding skills as well as apprenticeship programs for high school students to earn credit in local businesses. Dunleavy proudly exclaimed that crime had decreased 10 percent over the last year and applauded the record number of trainees that went through the Department of Public Safety academy last year. Alaska also recently received a new fingerprint tracking system that could improve tracking abilities by 30 percent. Dunleavy has suggested an additional $7 million in the budget that be allocated for prosecution of Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence crimes in Western Alaska, and also called for SA/DV shelters and programs to be fully funded.
“For too long this regoin of our state has been plagued by unacceptable levels of sexual violence against our most vulnerable. While we can’t undo the past, we can do everything in our power to protect Alaskans now and in the future,” said Dunleavy.
Dunleavy proposed a new major crimes unit focused on prosecuting the sex crimes in Western Alaska.
After addressing dozens of topics and his plans for the state in the coming year, Dunleavy called for unity in his closing comments.
“When our history is written will it be that we forced our children to look beyond Alaska’s shores for the American dream, that we stood by until Alaska was nothing more than a handful of holdouts fighting to be the last park ranger,” said Dunleavy. “Or will it be said that this was our finest hour, that we ignored the calls of divisiveness and pulled together like Alaskans always have.”