Alaska is fortunate in that it has a governor with a clear vision for its economic future.
In his state-of-the-state address to Alaskans this week, Gov. Sean Parnell — as he has done in past years — presented the 2014 roadmap for Alaska.
The common thread: economic development.
Alaska is a state rich in natural resources. Its economy lives or dies on the development of those resources hand-in-hand with its people.
That’s why Parnell focused largely on Alaskans and education, providing the best education possible for students from the start of elementary and beyond.
It is the people who call themselves Alaskans who will grow this state. It’s Alaskans who will direct development of the state’s natural resources, and the wise development of those resources will come around to provide the best education for this generation, the next generation, the one after that and the one after that.
It all begins with a sound state financial situation. Gov. Parnell operates under four guiding principles: “To live within our means, meet our constitutional priorities, fix what we have, and finish what we have started.”
He lays it out simply and concisely, which allows Alaskans to understand where he is leading the state — to better economic times.
He spoke of Alaska’s Liquefied Natural Gas Project, looking to the Legislature to move the project into the initial phase of engineering and design at an estimated cost of between $70 million and $90 million. Natural gas is just one of the state’s many natural resources.
And as Alaska develops it natural resources, it can afford the lifestyle it would like. It can afford to educate its children effectively and pay for public services and infrastructure to perpetuate that lifestyle.
Parnell proposed that 2014 be the Education Session for the Legislature.
He would like to see the education system reformed to improve charter school opportunities, career technical training, digital teaching and the like. He proposed school choice, stating that the state money allocated for students should be directed to the schools the students’ parents believe will best educate their children.
If the Legislature agrees to reform and works with him on his education priorities, he would be amenable to increasing each student’s allocation. This could be by as much $200 more per child over the next three years; it currently stands at $5,680 per child.
The governor also touched on the state’s $12 billion pension deficit, proposing that $3 billion be transferred from the $16 billion in budget reserves into the Retirement Trust Fund.
The speech largely set the direction for Alaska to position itself to rise out of the recession and toward a robust period of growth and opportunity for Alaskans.
In past years, Gov. Parnell focused significantly on reducing domestic violence, and his efforts created an increased awareness across the state, resulting in other Alaskans acknowledging the current situation was unacceptable and a new path had to be taken. He mentioned domestic violence and his Choose Respect campaign again, briefly, this week. It is an example of how he leads. He identifies a problem, proposes a solution, negotiates from a base of strength and willingness to listen to all points of view and then settles on an approach that brings Alaskans together to fix what’s broken.
With such an approach in regard to natural gas, the pension deficit and education, he’s likely to experience success that will reverberate into a better economic future for all Alaskans.
— Ketchikan Daily News, Jan. 25