I have commented on the Governor’s State of the State address. My comments are in BLUE below the associated paragraph of the Governor’s address.
Legislators, having once been where you are – both in the House and in the Senate – on behalf of the residents of our great state, I thank you for your service.
Comment: I thank you for your service? They are PAID, and I have known few who did not come out of office with a nice retirement and benefits for life. Not to mention going back as a LOBBYIST. Service? Service is when your butt is on the line and you are ill paid for that risk. Service is spending time away from family in a thirdworld hell hole being shot at or worrying about your legs being blown off by a mine or IED. Service is putting out all you have and having little or no recognition, such as the situation with the members of the Alaska State Defense Force. When have ASDF personnel been remembered by any governor other than Knowles and Murkowski? Palin and Parnell certainly have never remarked on their sacrifices. Service. Legislators have not a clue about service.
Fellow Alaskans, 2009 was a year of change for us. Since Governor Palin turned the reins of this state over, I have led aggressively to bring measurable results for Alaskans.
Alaskans are safer tonight because in 2009, the Department of Public Safety filled more than 24 trooper vacancies and 18 Village Public Safety Officer vacancies.
Comment: And, the State cannot fill the remaining VPSO positions. Ratting out one’s kin is not a popular thing in any community, especially the Bush. Too, chasing taillights is not all there is to being a cop. Yet, AST has the time and manpower, largely due to federal law enforcement grants that interdict local law enforcement priorities, to chase taillights with unmarked patrol cars and vans driven by AST Investigators on the Glenn. If this governor wanted to increase highway safety, he would use marked cars and allow the traffic engineers to do their jobs to set the speed limits in conformance with traffic engineering practices. Instead, we allow politicians to set speed limits and the resulting accident rate is the result.
Sexual abuse in Alaska is inadequately addressed by this administration or any other for that matter. The sexual abuse of our children is Alaska’s dirty secret. This abuse is especially rampant in the villages. Where is OCS and the AST in this, governor? Why is the State not working with organizations such as the Southcentral Foundation to promote Wellness Warriors and Beauty for Ashes to help break this cycle of abuse?
Alaskans are better prepared for this winter because, under Lieutenant Governor Campbell’s and Commissioner Emil Notti’s leadership, Department of Commerce employees made over 1,500 phone calls into nearly 200 communities, all located off the road system. They worked to assure Alaskans had adequate heating oil and food for the winter.
Comment: Uh, huh. Jobs would have been a better deal. Then, these people could pay their own way.
In 2009, we saw a 14-percent increase in Alaskans graduating from job-training programs through Alaska’s Department of Labor.
Comment: And, where are they employed, governor? You forgot that statistic. I believe unemployment in Alaska is running the national average of 10% or better.
And one more mine is employing Alaskans at Kensington because, for two decades many, including my administration, banded together to fight for federal permits.
Comment: Alaskans? Just how many of those jobs are actually held by people who LIVE here?! If it is like every other big development, including the North Slope and Red Dog, Alaskans are employed, but not many in proportion to the Outsiders who commute from the Outside to good jobs that should be held by Alaskans. No change there, gov. Yours and Sarah’s record on this is dismal.
Over the next 88 days, legislators gather here in Juneau to further define Alaska’s future. But tonight, we also do well to remember her past.
In the last year, Alaskans celebrated our 50th anniversary of statehood. We honored the strength and spirit that ultimately placed the 49th star – Alaska’s star – on America’s great flag. But that strength existed in this land as far back as the historical eye can see.
It took resilience for Alaska’s First People to survive here. For ten thousand years they’ve carved their existence and their identity from a fierce land and harsh climate.
With a steady hand and smart political work, Secretary of State William Seward navigated Alaska’s purchase from Russia.
Comment: Actually, the Russians had a problem. It was called . . . war. They, like the French in the Lousiana Purchase needed the money.
With determination, Alaska’s pioneers drafted a constitution and took a stand for statehood half a century ago.
With patience and strength, Alaska’s leaders of the 70s helped bring about the Trans Alaska Pipeline System.
Comment: Huh. And, I could swear it was an oil embargo that brought the North Slope of Alaska into play.
This day and every day, my administration works with that same determination to position Alaska’s economy for growth and our families for opportunity.
Comment: That’s why no pipeline, declining job and businesses, and nothing on the horizon to arrest an slowing economy. You and Sarah were just too busy with soap operas for the first 2 years of her administration to deal with Alaska.
We realize that economic growth for its own sake – that’s not the end – it’s the means to an end. For this is really about Alaskans. It’s about our future.
Comment: You mean we develop Alaska’s resources to benefit other interests. Not for Alaskans. Otherwise, the policy and strategy would be value added resource development.
To create these opportunities, we must take certain actions.
Fighting the Federal Government: Determining our Destiny
First, we grasp our future. We determine our destiny.
The United States’ purchase of Alaska in 1867 began a relationship with the federal government, one that has at times been contentious. From the beginning, Alaska has been treated with skepticism from Outside. Every student knows the controversy inherent in the phrase “Seward’s Folly.”
Years later, Congress debated whether Alaska could support itself as a state. Statehood champions contended that Alaska was rich in natural resources that could be developed for the benefit of Alaskans.
With statehood, the strong assumption prevailed that, as a fledgling state, we would be allowed to develop our own resources without constant federal interference.
Today, however, the federal government’s actions often seem at war with Alaskan interests.
The federal government has misused the Endangered Species Act as a regulatory weapon to delay development of Alaska’s resources. Now, they have proposed setting aside an area larger than the state of California as critical habitat for polar bears. I strongly oppose such overreactive ESA listings and critical habitat designations. These are job killers and beyond the feds authority.
Additionally, when they tried to deny access to lands, I told the Interior secretary how this harms Alaska’s economy and intrudes on the culture and way of life of many Alaskans.
With the Tongass National Forest, I have strongly urged the secretary of agriculture to maintain the current exemption from the national roadless policy. And if that is not enough, my administration will not hesitate to take the issue to court.
And now, the federal government hyperextends its reach by proposing to zone the oceans. They call it “marine spatial planning.” But the wild and shifting seas were never meant to be defined by little square boxes of regulated activity. Fish do not check their maps and get their passports stamped as they swim from zone to zone.
National oceans policy should be rational, should recognize the important role of coastal states, and should strike a balance between our ocean protection and commercial activities, like our fisheries and oil and gas production.
But beyond escalating federal agency intrusion, Alaskans have another fight on our hands – and this time, it is with Congress.
I have expressed great concern to congressional leadership over legislation that would disregard our people’s cultural and economic needs. We can manage our own predator and prey species.
Besides trying to manage our wildlife, they are now trying to manage us.
Federal health care legislation would force Alaskans to purchase health insurance, and tax us for years before the benefits are obtained. And it cuts Medicare to our seniors. This is bad policy. It diminishes our freedom.
For these reasons, I have asked our attorney general to review and make recommendations for action, and I have joined many other governors in urging Congress to take a breath, listen to the people and do what is right.
We best realize statehood’s promise and grow our economy when we determine our destiny – not Washington.
Comment: AS 38.05.500-505. Not one admission of the feds ignoring and walking all over our Statehood Compact. Called breach of contract. How about ANILCA, which caused millions of acres of resource rich land to be withdrawn from development by the Carter Administration and to bar rights of way to isolate communities and their people from their land allotments under ANSCA? Call a spade a spade, Mr. Governor. Don’t gloss it over. Alaska has been royally screwed by the feds. How come Sarah and you are afraid to hold the federal government accountable in the federal courts and Congress?
Economic Growth Through Responsible Resource Development
Second, we will grow our economy through responsible resource development.
Comment: Let’s see. What’s it called, uh, oh. Value added resource development. You know, not extraction resource exploitation—to put that into perspective, COLONIAL economics. No, you and Sarah have done nothing to change that paradigm. Alaska is still being raped by Canadian and Outside interests.
On January 9, 1971, Governor Bill Egan said in his inaugural address that, “Alaska has become established as America’s greatest oil province.” That remains true today.
Alaska’s numerous oil fields send approximately 650,000 barrels of oil per day down the Trans Alaska Pipeline System. For three decades, oil has substantially funded our state treasury, and provided jobs and income to thousands of Alaskans.
Comment: I think that figure is exaggerated or decidedly out of date. Especially, with the impact of BP’s shut downs from failing transportation pipe infrastructure over the last two years. I believe the actual figure is between 300,000-450,000 barrels per day.
And then there is the future of further oil and gas discoveries in Alaska’s Outer Continental Shelf, and maybe even one day – ANWR. Alaskans need the estimated 35 thousand jobs and $72 billion dollars in payroll that responsible OCS development would create.
I have made exploring and developing the OCS our priority. I have met with all the stakeholders, from whaling captains to oil company executives. We do not have to sacrifice traditional subsistence whaling in order to have jobs from OCS exploration and development. We can have both.
Besides oil, Alaska has clean burning natural gas in abundance. Indeed, Alaska will become America’s next great natural gas province.
Comment: What do you mean next? We were it for 30+ years, but no one in State gov’t had the courage to take the bull by the horns and build a natural gas pipeline to Valdez. The voters mandated this pipeline in 2002 with the passage of the Prop 3 creating ANGDA. Yet, your administration continues to ignore that mandate, Mr. Governor.
Alaska’s gas will be the nation’s bridge to a cleaner, more secure, domestic energy future. The demand looks solid. The price structure looks good. We are ready.
Pessimists say Alaska’s gas will be derailed by Lower 48 shale gas development. But, experts say that both natural gas and unconventional gas will be required. And Alaska gas has environmental and production advantages not held by shale gas.
Comment: That’s why Exxon spent $41B to purchase the company with the largest shale gas holdings in the Outside. Hmmm. Exxon should have spent the money on AGIA, Mr. Governor? I have been to Canada and seen first hand the Horn River Development in B.C. B.C., Canada’s California. Right. Shale gas is so insignificant that new pipelines are being built in the lower 48 and Canada to move that insignificant gas to market. It does not take much of an intellect to figure out that the last thing the oil companies and pipeline companies in the U.S. and Canada want is Alaska gas displacing and depressing the price of domestic and foreign imports of natural gas. Governor, pull your head out of your political posterior and smell the methane. LNG is where Alaska’s future is at. Once again, the Canadians and the Outside lead the way, not Alaska. Bill Walker has it right, not you or Ralph Samuels.
Gas gushers like Prudhoe and Point Thomson require Alaska-sized dreams. We will draw on that timeless Alaskan strength and ingenuity to make it happen. We will not settle for any less than maximizing recovery of Alaska’s gas for Alaskans’ benefit.
Bringing Alaska’s gas to market represents the largest economic opportunity before us.
Comment: And, bringing it to market requires leadership. Something neither you nor Sarah Palin could figure out. Alaska has to build the pipeline by taking risk and leadership of the process. Again, Bill Walker has it right, not you or Ralph Samuels. We mandated an all-Alaska pipeline and we again voted for that pipeline when you and Sarah were elected. Yet, you still ignore that mandate, Mr. Governor.
And we have made significant progress towards realizing that opportunity for Alaskans. I joined many of you in supporting a legislative framework to get a gasline – the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, or AGIA, as it is known.
AGIA is not a pipeline. It’s a framework to move us past milestones and toward a project sanctioning decision. And that is what AGIA has done – taken us off high center and brought us to this historic place.
Comment: Yeah. After 32 years, still no gas flowing to market. Some progress.
Within a few weeks, the Alaska Pipeline Project – a partnership by TransCanada and Exxon – will file its open season proposal with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Comment: An open season that your administration has already admitted will be a failure.
Following the filing, the next milestone will be FERC’s approval for the Alaska Gas Pipeline Project to hold its open season. And later this spring, we anticipate another milestone to be cleared; the initial open season will begin, around May 1st.
Comment: AGIA to Canada: Canadian jobs, Canadian infrastructure, Canadian industry. Any legislator and governor who backs this rape should be run out of Alaska on the proverbial rail after being tarred and feathered. Leadership? There hasn’t been leadership in this State since Bill Eagan and Wally Hickel. Again, the voters mandate to build an all-Alaska pipeline to Valdez has been ignored. Only one gubernatorial candidate is saying that he will build the all-Alaska pipeline. That candidate is Bill Walker.
What is more, the Denali Pipeline Company – that is ConocoPhillips and BP – moved their open season process forward from late fall to April, putting them just one step behind TransCanada and Exxon. This is competition at work and true progress for Alaska.
Comment: Denali. Moving our gas and gas liquids to Canada. The gas at the lowest market price to be used to free oil from tar sands. The gas liquids to power Canadian industry, not Alaskan industry. Canadian jobs, Canadian industry and infrastructure. Where’s the beef for Alaska? Just more rape and run.
I anticipate conversations with the companies on how the state might improve the chances for a successful open season. For example, I expect the state to come forward with royalty incentives for those companies participating in the open season under AGIA’s framework.
Comment: Your public position has been that the oil companies must come to you. I note the offer regarding a potential reduction in taxes from Alaska’s royalties. Not a bad idea, as this is what Alberta and Saskatchewan did to encourage oil and gas development there. However, after most of the industry has left the State and 800+ jobs have been lost is a bit late.
Though Alaskans have talked about a gasline for at least 30 years, it is the first time significant milestones have been crossed. The first time field work has been completed, it is the first time we will have detailed cost estimates, and the first time open seasons are at hand. At this rate, the companies could be building a pipeline four to five years from now.
Comment: Again, 2002, we voters mandated what we wanted. An all-Alaska gas pipeline to Valdez. Since, we have been ignored. We reiterated that mandate with your and Sarah’s election. Like your predecessors, you have ignored our will.
But, getting pipe in the ground will take what Alaskans are known for meeting the challenges together, problem solving, not rock throwing. It will demand the best of all of us.
Comment: After 10 years of writing on this subject, I am amazed at the continued specious excuses on the part of our so called State leadership. Whose pockets have been lined to prevent our gas from going to market? The all-Alaska pipeline option to Valdez was viable in 1984. We could have had a pipeline to Valdez pumping gas to Asia long ago, were it not for the attitude that somebody else has to build the pipeline. When Yukon Pacific tried to do so, the State fought them tooth and nail to prevent YPC from building the pipeline to Valdez in the 80s.
I remain committed to developing Alaska’s resources for Alaskans. For that reason AGIA requires access to gas for Alaskan communities. But we do not have to wait for a large diameter pipeline to get gas to our communities.
I have appointed Bob Swenson as Alaska’s new In-state Gasline Project Manager to evaluate a number of options for in-state gas. We want the lowest cost, most reliable option for Alaskans.
Comment: The Noah pipeline from the North Slope to Port McKenzie in the Matanuska Valley is not permitted, goes through two parks, one national, one state and across several fish streams. This route will be a litigation magnet for the greenies and will not happen for at least 10 years. Worse, the volume is too low (500mcf/day) to deliver economical natural gas for residential use in south central. Yes, your gas bills will go up. Importing gas from Sakhalin Island will deliver cheaper gas than the Noah pipeline. Yet, the all-Alaska pipeline route is permitted, and the spur from Glennallen is permitted. Construction can start as soon as we have a governor who will lead and not kow tow to the self interests who want Alaska’s gas shelved. As of now, that leadership is being offered by only Bill Walker.
Not to mention the duplication of effort with ANGDA, and the increase in State gov’t by the creation of this unnecessary and irrelevant position.
On Cook Inlet gas storage, we are moving ahead by supporting the proposed underground gas storage facility on the Kenai Peninsula. This means hundreds of jobs on the Kenai and it means greater energy security for Southcentral Alaska.
Comment: Something that should have been done long ago, but, politics and shortsighted development and regulatory impediments prevented the construction of storage. Too, who figured we would run short of deliverable gas in Cook Inlet before new reserves were discovered and put into production or before the all-Alaska pipeline to Valdez would be completed? 60+ Alaskans lost their jobs when Agrium shut down. Now the LNG plant will be shut down in 2012 meaning more jobs lost.
Turning now to mining. We saw some victories in 2009. The Kensington Mine near Juneau was successfully permitted. The Fort Knox Mine near Fairbanks expanded, as did Red Dog Mine. These three mines provide good-paying jobs for nearly 1,200 Alaskans. And work on the Donlin Project in Southwest Alaska is continuing.
Comment: Same as before. Jobs for Alaskans? Like Red Dog? I’ve met some of those “Alaskans” commuting from Butte, MT and other places at airports around the nation. Yeah. Just like the North Slope being staffed by “Alaskans”. Try the truth, Mr. Governor, it will set you free. What happened to the small miner that used to be Alaska’s mining industry, Mr. Governor? Big companies tend to stomp the little guy.
Moving to timber. My administration successfully pursued jobs and economic opportunity in timber for Alaskans. I personally fought for the Logjam timber sale all the way to the secretary of agriculture. We saved valuable jobs near Ketchikan and my administration will continue to battle for these important jobs.
Comment: Saved valuable jobs. Right. Closing down Tongass. Another example of the breach of our Statehood Compact and the cowardice of our governors and legislators.
Now to fishing. Alaskans are proud of our fishing traditions and heritage. Control of our seafood resources was one of the original drivers behind Alaska’s push for statehood. Today, we budget for better scientific data and work to reduce bycatch to ensure continued abundance for all Alaskans.
Comment: The science has lagged the rape of our bottom fishing industry by many years. Foreign boats account for too much of our fisheries. It is time we backed off the rape of our coastal waters until we know what the sustainable levels are, or risk the collapse of the Pollack and crab industry as happened with the cod fisheries on the east coast from overfishing and too little understanding of the biology and ecology of the coastal waters.
This spring, low salmon returns coupled with flooding on the Yukon River, created economic and subsistence difficulties for Alaskans in the region. I was pleased when the secretary of commerce granted our request for a federal disaster declaration. And, our budget proposal contains a request for dollars needed to obtain another sonar counter so we can get better scientific data.
Comment: Nothing new here. Happens every few years. Just look at the history. During the Knowles Administration, Bristol Bay and the Yukon fisheries were declared economic disasters almost every year.
The climate for economic growth is set not only by federal action and state resource policy, it is also established by the state’s fiscal policy.
Comment: The only thing set by the State’s fiscal policy is the unwarranted and egregious growth of state and local government fueled by a declining oil supply. A prudent man would have not put forth a $10.5B budget in a declining economy in the face of declining oil production and activity. BP laid off 800 workers on the North Slope. Yet, Parnell would have us believe that things are booming in Alaska!
Budget Restraint and Sound Fiscal Policy
We submitted a balanced budget. We left a surplus of revenue. We do not spend everything on the table.
Comment: $10.5B, 8.6% increase over Sarah’s excesses. Wow. That’s fiscal constraint, all right! Keep partying! Who cares if there are icebergs out there in the dark, eh Capt. Parnell. The good old Titanic Alaska will make it through! All the economic indicators are down and this budget does not build anything. It is election year fluff.
Our budget focuses on priorities mandated by Alaska’s Constitution. On education, public safety, transportation and resource development.
And, I established some guiding principles for this budget.
First, budget discipline;
Comment: See no evil.
Second, results for Alaskans; and
Comment: Hear no evil.
Third, save and invest Alaska’s dollars for our future.
Comment: Speak no evil and ignore reality!
I held the line on state agency growth. I held it to just over two percent, when they asked for a ten percent increase.
Comment: What?!!!! The only sector that has grown since you and Sarah were elected is government!
We fully funded Alaska’s K-12 education an increase of $58 million mandated by law.
And we are beefing up public safety. We are funding new troopers, new sexual assault investigators, as well as 15 new Village Public Safety Officers.
Comment: VPSO positions that have yet to be filled. VPSOs are not cops, they are rent-a-cops. Good idea, but lacking in the execution. New troopers. Good. Where is the increase in prison capacity and an increase in the criminal justice system to balance out the increased arrests? Too, let’s face it. The cops come after fact. They prevent nothing. Supporting 2d Amendment rights and affirming the right of self defense would go along ways to preventing crime.
We are increasing funding for shelters that provide a safe haven for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. And, we have asked legislators for $75 million for a much-needed new crime lab.
In these tough economic times, I am pumping up Alaska’s capital budget. Capital dollars fuel Alaska’s economy. They put Alaskans to work and provide long-term economic opportunity.
Our state dollars will leverage about $800 million in federal infrastructure funds for Alaska.
I have also proposed a five-year deferred maintenance plan to fix what we have got. We will invest $100 million per year for five years. Alaska’s private-sector carpenters, electricians, plumbers, roofers, HVAC contractors, and road crews, these and others will have a dependable stream of work for years to come.
Legislators, I am asking you to approve this funding by March 1st, so work can commence and Alaskans can go to work on these hammer-ready projects this summer.
And, we will create even more jobs by funding construction of two new statewide buildings, the Anchorage crime lab I mentioned earlier and we will construct the Life Sciences building at UAF.
What goes on inside these buildings after construction is also significant to our economy. Like our deferred maintenance plan, these buildings mean hundreds of millions of dollars in direct and indirect economic impact for years to come.
Where energy is concerned, we will continue reducing dependency on diesel across Alaska. And we are putting $25 million toward more in-state renewable energy projects.
We will provide better access to state lands for resources, recreation, and communities.
We will build the road to Umiat. We will continue work on the road to Nome, and with money already in hand, we will improve the road to Cascade Point, here in Juneau.
Besides building new roads, we are fixing the ones we have got like funding Dalton Highway maintenance. Our budget includes over $136 million for road and airport maintenance.
And, we have provided funds for a stable, reliable Alaska Marine Highway System. I directed them to provide spring ferry runs down the Aleutian Chain to better connect those communities. Also, we have budgeted money for fuel costs and salaries, for vessel and ferry terminal upkeep, and deferred maintenance.
So far tonight, I have talked about how our state budget spends to improve job opportunities, education, public safety, roads, and the like, now, let’s talk about how we are doing on the revenue side of the house.
Our state budget is heavily dependent on oil revenue. Oil prices can rise and fall quickly. And therefore, the state has to maintain its savings for the lean times.
Not counting the Permanent Fund, our budget reserves contain enough money to safeguard us through the next ten years, if we exercise spending restraint.
Where the State of Alaska has enough money to get by, we ought to return some of it to the people. That is why I proposed suspending the state motor fuel tax for two years.
The state’s road maintenance money is in no way tied to the amount of the fuel tax. So where the state can responsibly give the people’s money back, we ought to do it.
Now, let’s talk tax credits for boosting Alaska’s economy.
Tourism jobs are found in almost every community in the state. I have seen how our tourism industry has taken a hit from the global downturn. I have seen how costs have risen for businesses. That is why I support legislation permitting an income tax credit for tourism companies that contribute to an Alaska tourism marketing program.
And, I am open to more ideas on how we might improve tourism opportunities in this state.
Immediately after becoming governor, I requested economic models detailing how our oil tax regime, known as ACES, is working. In this difficult economy, I am concerned about jobs and oil production.
The Department of Revenue prepared an ACES status report. After this analysis, I proposed a series of tax credits to boost jobs and production.
Earlier this fall, I said if oil tax credits were justified, I would support them. My oil tax credit proposals are just that, because companies must invest here in Alaska, create Alaskan jobs, and drill more wells before qualifying for these new tax benefits. I do not support giving tax breaks without an Alaska work commitment.
Besides putting more money in Alaskan’s pockets and providing tax credits to spur economic growth, we are going to save more as a state, and invest wisely in our future.
Comment: The Gov’s budget is $10.5B. Less than 10% comprises any capital projects or maintenance. Where is the rest of the money going? To fund government! What part of fiscal conservative does Sean Parnell not understand? Of course, that was just campaign rhetoric on the part of the Palin/Parnell campaign. No need to put into policy what we voted for in their election.
Transformational Educational Opportunity
Investing in Alaskans, in their ingenuity, hard work and resourcefulness is the smartest investment we can make. And, investing in our young people makes sense.
If we give every high school student the opportunity for a merit scholarship, if we challenge them to reach higher to take personal responsibility for their futures, many will. These students will transform our economy and positively change the trajectory of Alaska’s future for generations.
With the Governor’s Performance Scholarship proposal, all Alaskan high school students can earn tuition for an in-state university or job-training program. They must complete a more rigorous curriculum than what’s now required to graduate from high school. Four years each of math, science, and English and three years of social studies. But for students who take this curriculum, better grades will mean greater tuition awards.
If a student maintains a ‘C+’ average but completes this more rigorous curriculum, they will earn 50 percent of their tuition; a ‘B’ average will earn them 75 percent tuition and with an ‘A’ average while taking this tougher curriculum, a young person will earn 100 percent tuition for an in-state university or job-training program. This is great news for Alaska’s students, and perhaps even better news for parents!
Merit scholarships work. States with merit scholarships have measurably higher graduation rates, measurably higher academic achievement, and measurably higher post-secondary completion.
To responsibly pay for these scholarships, I propose saving $400 million, setting it aside and using the interest and investment earnings from this savings account to pay for these yearly scholarships.
That way, 30 years from now, we will still have the $400 million but we will also have a workforce better prepared for the future.
We are pleased to have with us tonight, Cora Bontrager, a 7th grader at “DZ” Middle School here in Juneau, and a member of the graduating Class of 2015. Cora’s family and teachers are proud of her character and work ethic – and those qualities show up in her grade point average.
With the Governor’s Performance Scholarship, generations of hard-working Alaska students, just like Cora, will have a real opportunity to, as one author said, “Go confidently in the direction of their dreams.” And we want our students to have the opportunity to dream big.
In addition to funding K-12 education and providing merit scholarship opportunities for Alaska’s kids, I will work to resolve school construction issues using part of the 2010 surplus, particularly in the rural areas where a number of schools need to be replaced.
And, we hired the state’s first director of rural education, Juneau’s own Phyllis Carlson.
Comment: Another unnecessary growth in State gov’t. Why do we need a State Dept. of Education in the first place? It accomplished just exactly what? Other than to certify teachers?
The scholarships would be nice, but not now. We cannot afford this program. The economy is declining, jobs lost, and Parnell is going to put out more graduates who will be unemployed. Not to mention the grade creep that will result from the need of school administrations to qualify more kids for scholarships to show how well they are doing their jobs. Unfortunately, the trend in education has shown that we need to get gov’t out of the classroom and return the schools to education rather than social experimentation.
Safe Homes, Schools and Communities
Tonight, I have spoken to my vision and policies for growing our economy. I focused on fighting undue federal intervention, promoting resource development, a sound fiscal policy, and moved to educational opportunity. Now, I must go to a more personal topic.
We cannot be indifferent or uncommitted when our children are nearly six times more likely to be sexually assaulted in Alaska than anywhere else in the nation. We cannot stand aside when our reported rape rates are 2.5 times the national average.
That – fellow Alaskans – is an epidemic.
These are real Alaskans with faces, names, stories.
We are taking a different approach, a comprehensive approach to stop the epidemic.
We have proposed to address the domestic violence and sexual assault (DVSA) epidemic in three key ways;
First, we will put more abusers behind bars.
Second, we will protect survivors and help them heal. And,
Third, we will focus on prevention and education.
If we commit ourselves to this great cause, we can end the epidemic in a decade.
Comment: Just more political speak. An unrealistic outcome. Where is the rest of the necessary change in paradigm? Such as: Southcentral Foundation and Wellness Warriors, Beauty for Ashes, Potters Group and other such faith based counseling and healing programs? Has to be an across the board effort, or it will not work.
Our first step – beefed-up law enforcement and tougher prosecution.
As I mentioned before, we are hiring 15 new Village Public Safety Officers this year and 15 more every year for the next ten years, until every village without a VPSO that desires one – has one; and, we will put a stronger emphasis on domestic violence and sexual assault prevention training, bringing law enforcement and advocates together.
Comment: VPSOs are not cops. They are rent-a-cops. Civilians. Alaska has an emergency condition in its lack of law enforcement in the villages. 239 villages. Not every village can afford a VPSO. Not enough AST. On and on. This problem needs to be addressed with thinking out of the box. The state militia can be used to provide temporary law enforcement in those villages where the need is greatest. However, that takes imagination, commitment and an understanding of the local condition. Something the Outsiders who staff our State’s bureaucracy cannot grasp. Nor can our governors. Creates a turf war with AST. So, the rape and incest continues unabated.
I am proposing legislation that will make it mandatory for sex offenders registered in another state and who move to Alaska to also register here. And the bill will allow judges to lengthen sentences where the defendant knew the victim was especially vulnerable due to the influence of drugs or alcohol.
This legislation will ensure that a person who is convicted of human trafficking or child pornography will carry that record for the rest of their lives.
Comment: Overlooked are those victims of family incest and abuse who are transported out of state by a parent into the care of their Outside abusive family members. Yet, AS 11.50.100(a)(3) seems to cover the situation. Unfortunately, in the situation that I am involved in, we cannot get the State OCS, AST, APD to act in defense of the little girls in jeaopardy. So, no, Mr. Governor, your solutions will not work. They are political pandering and nothing more.
Second – we will protect and help victims heal.
My administration is increasing funding for shelters, providing survivors with a refuge from abusive situations.
I am pleased to have with us in the gallery Sandy Samaniego, Executive Director of the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, or CDVSA. Sandy and the Council are responsible for distributing funding grants to the various shelters around the state. I appreciate the Council’s efforts to provide safe havens for Alaska’s families.
Comment: Again, where is Southcentral Foundation? It is going to take those raised in the villages to stop what’s happening in the villages. A gusek cannot be effective. My wife went through Beauty for Ashes and ARRRIGH House through Southcentral Foundation. I know what these people who have been abused go through.
Additionally, we are calling on more private-sector attorneys to provide free legal services.
Comment: I can’t stop laughing at that one! Too many attorneys in gov’t are problem! How specious!
Third – prevention. We must change our practice of preserving silence. We must courageously confront this private evil where we suspect or see it. And, we must promote a culture of respect that will not tolerate this conduct.
Comment: See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Governor, until you go to those who understand, who act to help others who’ve been affected, and have the political courage to think outside the box, nothing will change.
The CDVSA partnered with Executive Director Peggy Brown and the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault to lay the groundwork for a statewide campaign urging Alaskans to “Choose Respect.” By drawing attention to this grave situation, we believe that knowledge will spur more Alaskans to action.
Comment: See above. Include Kathryn Gottlieb of the South Central Foundation and Dr. Larry Severson if you really want to address this problem.
Additionally, the state will hire our first ever domestic violence and sexual assault prevention coordinator.
Many public and private-sector groups address domestic violence and sexual assault issues, but we have greater possibilities for success if the public and private-sector have a point of connection, a point of coordination for we are stronger together. The new coordinator will better align the public and private- sector groups to stem the epidemic.
Changing a statewide culture is a huge challenge – but it’s one that we are up for. It begins one Alaskan, one family, one community at a time. And I know this kind of change is possible because I have personally seen it happen across generations of my own family.
If we are to end this scourge on our families, communities and cultures, then we – all Alaskans – have got to step up.
Honoring Those Who Serve
Before I conclude, I want to talk about one community in particular that is invaluable to Alaska – our military community.
The men and women serving in our military are some of the most courageous and character-filled individuals I have ever met. One of them, our final guest, is with us today and I want to share a little bit of Lieutenant Colonel Marc Hoffmeister’s story.
After sustaining massive injuries while protecting our freedom overseas, Lieutenant Colonel Hoffmeister returned home to Alaska to recover. Always at the forefront was his focus on his fellow soldiers. So long as they were in the fight, he wanted to be too.
Until he was ready to return to battle, Lieutenant Colonel Hoffmeister focused on encouraging his fellow Wounded Warriors, raising their spirits and their altitude as he led a group up the highest mountain in America. Lieutenant Colonel Hoffmeister is a great American and a great Alaskan. And he would tell you that he’s not alone, that there are countless others like him in our military community.
Tonight, I am proud to have him with us in the gallery as we honor all of our military men and women.
And as we honor their service, we must also honor their sacrifice. Since last we met, 24 Alaskan or Alaska-based soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice. Please join me in a moment of silence and remembrance.
We will never forget the sacrifices made by these brave men and women and their families.
We have another opportunity to honor our veterans this time through legislation and the ballot box. I am sponsoring a bill that would assure access to revenue bonds so the Veteran’s Housing Loan Program will continue.
Alaska has one of the highest percentages of veterans of any state. The Veteran’s Housing Loan Program has been widely used by these honorable Alaskans. With legislative approval, the bond request will head to the 2010 general election ballot – where you, the people, can exercise your freedom and show your appreciation to those who have given so much to safeguard us.
Tonight, I began by pointing out the resilience of Alaska’s people, of our strength, our grit and our character. We recalled more than 10,000 years of rich Alaska history.
I have also talked about Alaska’s present, and what my administration is doing to develop and defend the opportunities before us.
And now, I am asking all Alaskans to join me – and to take hold of Alaska’s destiny. Because, when we take hold of our destiny as a state, “North to the Future,” becomes more than a motto, it becomes a lifestyle.
A lifestyle that inspires our children – the hope of our great state – to seize their futures, and protect and defend the peace of our homes and communities. A lifestyle of self-determination of responsible use and management of the resources God blessed us with.
The spirit, innovation and strength that defined our early Alaskans lives on in us today. And, we are heirs of that same Alaska promise. The opportunity is before us; the mantle of responsibility has been passed to us – and together we will meet the challenges ahead.
Comment: Other than to state the obvious, which is no mention of the existence or service of the members of the Alaska State Defense Force, I agree with the Governor on this issue. We owe those who SERVE and defend our freedoms. To those in the uniform of the United States military and the reserve components: Thank you! And, may God Bless You and Yours.
Thank you, may God bless our great state and nation.