We heard something refreshing in Gov. Sean Parnell's State of the State address last week.
Of course he talked about developing our oil and gas resources and creating jobs for Alaskans. What governor hasn't ever promised that?
But there was more. The governor talked about his public safety program to combat domestic violence and sexual assault. He outlined a plan to spend $500 million over five years to improve roads and other infrastructure. He unveiled a merit scholarship program. He wants to suspend the motor fuel tax for two years. He is sponsoring a bill to keep the Veteran's Housing Loan Program funded.
When was the last time Alaskans heard their governor talk so specifically on issues other than crude oil and pipelines? Tony Knowles' tenure, maybe? Has it been that long?
For a couple of administrations now, policies and actions from the Alaska governor's mansion have been dominated by the goal of turning natural gas reserves into state revenue. No doubt, that's an important goal considering the dwindling flow of North Slope oil that we've depended on for a generation.
Attaining that goal nearly consumed the Frank Murkowski administration. The goal dominated Sarah Palin's first year, too. Whether or not she would've had specific plans or goals for any other Alaska issues - public safety, education, infrastructure - we'll never know. The national spotlight snatched her away forever when she became the GOP vice presidential nominee, barely a year into her term.
We all remember that Parnell had his sights set on a different job before becoming lieutenant governor, taking a run at Don Young for the state's sole U.S. House seat. Some political observers might make a bigger issue out of that, suggesting that Parnell still covets the seat. Perhaps. It's called ambition. It's not necessarily a dirty word.
What counts just as much is what a person does with the job they've got right now.
To us, Parnell sounds like he's trying to be a governor who attends to all the challenges its residents face.
Yes, we absolutely must have dependable revenues, and our residents need jobs. But what should we spend those revenues on? What quality of work should Alaskans be striving to attain? How well are we teaching our kids? How secure are we?
We know that this is an election year, and that's when politicians always make their best promises. Acknowledging that, and acknowledging that Parnell will be campaigning to keep the job he's got now, we remain encouraged that social issues seem to have as much room on Parnell's agenda as oil and gas.
These are important issues regardless of whether Alaska is a resource state or not. Sounds like the governor wants a vigorous discussion of them. That's refreshing.
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