At a time of the year when Alaska’s Governor is generally sequestered on the third floor of the capital in Juneau as the mandated 90 day session runs out of time, Governor Bill Walker was in Kenai stumping for some major changes to get Alaska out of its financial shortfalls. At a joint Kenai/Soldotna Chamber of Commerce sold out luncheon the Governor told those in attendance that he liked the challenges of the job because taking care of the hard times was the job he was elected to do. In an interview with the Dispatch the Governor said, “I think it’s going well. I’m out stumping for the future for the State of Alaska. I have a vision of an Alaska that’s not waking up every morning looking at what the price of oil is today. We need to get beyond that to have an Alaska that has a balanced sustainable budget and a future going forward.” Regarding compromises to his plan Gov. Walker said, “There’s always compromises and I’m certainly willing to consider anything as long as we have the same destination. How we get there is secondary to the fact that we get there. I’m daily in meetings with the legislature and my door is always open to them so I think we’re going to get there and I feel very optimistic about it.”
Along with groups such as Plan4Alaska and Alaska’s Future Now the Governor wants a budget plan passed this session, “I believe that will happen. I believe the actual impact won’t happen now because it takes a couple of years for things to kick in so we won’t have a balanced, sustainable budget until 2019 but the pieces should be set in place to make that happen this year,” he said. Which makes the Governor hopeful for Alaska’s economic future, “I’m very hopeful and optimistic and once we have the opportunity to build Alaska we will. You can’t build Alaska while you have to fix Alaska, we need to fix Alaska now, balance our check book and get things set on a sustainable basis then we can build Alaska. The first thing of which we want to build is the Alaska Gas Pipeline with the LNG facility here in Nikiski to bring our stranded natural gas on the North Slope to tide water to benefit all Alaskans. The pre-feed is funded and on schedule to be completed this October, November and at that point then there will be decisions to be made about going forward. So we need the pre-feed done first and I’m happy that is on track and on schedule and I’m pleased with that.”
During Q&A from the audience Tye Handley, son of a Sterling homesteader asked the Governor if he had considered toll roads as a means of raising revenue, saying that the Peninsula gets hit very hard with traffic on the Sterling Highway during the summer months. The Governor said he hadn’t thought of that but would look into the feasibility of toll roads, “Sometimes things cost more to implement then they produce in revenue, but we’ll sure look into it,” said the Governor. Many participants in the audience expressed their appreciation to the Governor for coming to Kenai and listening to their ideas.