Voices of Alaska: Better together. Together again

  • By Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott
  • Thursday, August 24, 2017 9:23pm
  • Opinion

First and foremost, we want to thank Alaskans for giving us the opportunity to lead in these challenging times. When we last set out on a joint campaign, we knew that tough days were on Alaska’s horizon. We also knew that these times would require hard, unpopular decisions. As a couple of Alaskans born into the Territory of Alaska, intimately invested in this state, we were ready to do the work to secure Alaska’s future. We are committed to building upon the progress that has been made to stabilize and grow Alaska.

People have often wondered how a Republican-turned-Independent and a Democrat can lead the state without becoming embattled. The simple answer is that we draw on the help of all Alaskans, particularly the outstanding members of our cabinet, without regard to party affiliation. And when doing what is best for Alaskans is the only platform, doing what’s right is the only way forward.

With that in mind, we accepted Medicaid Expansion because it’s good for Alaskans. As a result, 35,000 additional Alaskans have health coverage today and lives have been saved. Working with the Legislature, we reformed the state Medicaid program and legislation was enacted that will result in a 22% decrease in the cost of many Alaskans’ health insurance premiums.

Our administration issued a declaration of emergency to address the opioid crisis. With widespread bipartisan support, legislation was adopted to aggressively tackle this epidemic that is stealing the lives of Alaskans young and old.

When we strive for what is best for Alaska, our administration meets with the President of the United States, regardless of party affiliation. We know that anytime we have the President’s ear, it’s an opportunity for Alaska. The federal government affects our state and its residents in a myriad of ways. We have worked with both White House administrations to expedite permitting for our oil and gas industry companies and are close to finally permitting the lifesaving Izembek Road.

The oil and gas industry is vital to Alaska. We put funding in the capital budget to begin the process of developing North Slope Road infrastructure so exploration can continue year-round at a reduced cost.

And Alaska, in all of her majesty and with her vast resources, is vital to the world. This is particularly so with oil and gas, fisheries and tourism. Meeting with the President of China, the President of South Korea and the President of Tokyo Gas in recent months has been invaluable in further developing our international trade relationships.

When we collaborate, we draw on the experience and diversity among us. We formed the Governor’s Tribal Advisory Council and the Alaska Marine Highway Advisory Group to make sure that more Alaskans have a voice in our administration. We gave over 500 presentations on the fiscal situation. We held business roundtables and town halls and met with Alaskans in villages, towns and cities. More voices generate more ideas. More ideas form better solutions. We always say that Alaska’s greatest resource is her people. We have witnessed this truth time and time again by including, listening to and learning from Alaskans from every reach of the state.

We have never ceased to accept the responsibility entrusted to us when Alaskans elected us to take the helm. That responsibility requires decision-making not rooted in popularity but anchored in doing what is best for this generation and the next. With our oil revenues down by 80 percent, we introduced a complete fiscal plan to close the $4.3 billion fiscal gap. Overall spending has been reduced by 43 percent and the state workforce has been reduced by 3,000 employees. We will continue our focus on government efficiency, effectiveness and accountability.

We simply will not compromise this state’s future by making unsustainable political promises and decisions in an election year. We will do the trench work. We are committed now more than ever to digging in to ensure that Alaska continues to provide for its citizens – and that state savings and the Permanent Fund Dividend last for generations, not an election cycle. Alaskans deserve resolution of our problems today to secure a robust economy for tomorrow. Pulling together, we can build a safer, smarter, stronger Alaska.

We will not rest until we know that we have done absolutely everything to make sure Alaska is set firmly on a course destined for prosperity. It is time to finish what we started, the job Alaskans sent us to do, and to always, always, keep Alaska first.

Bill Walker and Byron Mallott have filed for re-election as Alaska’s Governor and Lieutenant Governor running on and independent ticket.

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