At the beginning of his administration, Gov. Mike Dunleavy observed, “Alaska’s current troubles are ‘equal opportunity problems,’ because all our residents are negatively affected.” Unfortunately, due to the state’s high crime levels, a weak economy, imprudent government spending, and underperforming schools, these factors pose a threat to Republicans and Democrats alike; men and women; and people of all races and backgrounds. Gov. Dunleavy also stated, “Because these problems affect every man, woman, and child in Alaska, we can proceed with confidence knowing that when we solve these challenges, life will be improved for all Alaskans. A rising tide will lift all boats.”
To implement his agenda for combatting crime, strengthening Alaska’s economy, and reforming government, Dunleavy has reached out to some of the state’s most accomplished women and entrusted them with control over several crucial departments of state government. More women currently serve in the governor’s cabinet than any administration in recent memory. Also, more than half of Gov. Dunleavy’s appointments to boards and commissions have been women. It’s not a quota-driven process; rather, it reflects this governor’s commitment to appoint the most qualified Alaskans, regardless of gender.
After only one year, we’re pleased to share that tremendous progress has been made addressing some of Alaska’s most pressing issues.
Combatting crime remains this administration’s number one priority. The repeal of SB 91 was a significant accomplishment to make Alaska safer, but it is only a beginning. More State Troopers were hired in 2019, and the administration’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget calls for funding 15 additional Trooper positions as well as three new prosecutors. The expansion of Trooper positions will enable much-needed service to rural communities that have been underserved for far too long.
New resources are also being deployed to address the crisis of sexual assault and domestic violence, including record funding for emergency shelters and victim assistance programs. The Trump Administration has been an important ally in these efforts, issuing an emergency declaration that comes attached with $6 million in new funding to address critical public safety needs. Tremendous progress has also been made to solve the state’s unfortunate backlog of untested sexual assault kits.
The reforms needed to keep Alaskans safe have understandably added to the number of inmates housed by the Department of Corrections. The administration has proposed a 7% increase in general fund spending for Corrections, to ensure that dangerous criminals are kept off our streets.
Creating a more prosperous future for Alaskans is also a vital goal of the Dunleavy Administration. The “Alaska Development Team” has been created to bring special focus to the administration’s efforts to attract new businesses and economic investment to our state.
The administration has deployed many initiatives to promote development of Alaska’s natural resources, which hold the promise for creating thousands of family-wage jobs and reducing dependence on government programs. New regulations have been issued to modernize the process of handling applications, bids, and payments for oil and gas leases. Efforts are also underway to revitalize Alaska’s timber industry, advance development in ANWR, and promote further expansion of the mining sector, such as the Donlin Gold project.
The economy is reacting to these steps and is trending in a positive direction, with the lowest unemployment rate in Alaska history and GDP growth of 3.9% in the first half of 2019. Yet this is just a small taste of what can be expected when Alaska lives up to its full economic potential.
Another central focus of the Dunleavy Administration is to bring government spending under control. Considerable progress was made in the first year, with total reductions that closed the budget deficit by approximately one-third. Much more needs to be done. All department heads are exploring ways to reduce overhead and provide state services with greater efficiency. In the current budget climate, “doing more with less” isn’t just a catch phrase, it’s a financial necessity that is being implemented to ensure the resources of hard-working Alaskans are being spent responsibly.
The pathway to a secure future for Alaska’s families is to keep our communities safe from crime, greatly accelerate the growth of the private sector economy, and to re-tool state government so that it lives within its means and provides vital services with greater efficiency. We’re honored to play a part in pursuing these objectives, and we’re confident this will create the rising tide that improves the lives of ALL Alaskans.
Julie Anderson is commissioner of the Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development.
Nancy Dahlstrom is commissioner of the Alaska Department of Corrections.
Corri A. Feige is commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.
Dr. Tamika L. Ledbetter is commissioner of the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
Amanda Price is commissioner of the Alaska Department of Public Safety.
Kelly Tshibaka is commissioner of the Alaska Department of Administration.
By Commissioners Julie Anderson, Nancy Dahlstrom, Corri Feige, Dr. Tamika L. Ledbetter, Amanda Price, and Kelly Tshibaka