Former Gov. Bill Walker, right, and his running mate former commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development Heidi Drygas, speak to Juneauites gathered for a fundraiser at a private home in Juneau on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Former Gov. Bill Walker, right, and his running mate former commissioner of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development Heidi Drygas, speak to Juneauites gathered for a fundraiser at a private home in Juneau on Tuesday, June 7, 2022. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Voices of the Peninsula: A vote for Walker/Drygas is a vote for Alaskans

It’s easy to forget some of the many lost lawsuits, devastating budget cuts and general incompetence that defines Mike Dunleavy’s term as governor

  • By Vince Beltrami
  • Thursday, June 23, 2022 11:47pm
  • Opinion

By Vince Beltrami

It’s been a long and strange few years, crazy enough that it’s easy to forget some of the many lost lawsuits, devastating budget cuts and general incompetence that defines Mike Dunleavy’s term as governor.

Need a refresher? Here’s one quick lesson in recent history that gives an idea of why this office matters so much for businesses and for workers in our state and how we’re currently being let down.

The year was 2021. Countless Alaskan businesses — family-owned restaurants and neighborhood bars, child care centers and big retail stores alike — were all on the brink of shutting down as the economic havoc created by the pandemic rippled through our state.

Federal leaders stepped up to the moment and got money out the door to help people and businesses survive. Dunleavy’s response: snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Only 5% of $95 million in child care relief funds actually went out the door. Food and nutrition funding that could have provided $2,400 per year to hungry kids also sat unused. The distribution of relief funding to businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program and Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act was a disaster.

Dunleavy likes to talk about “open for business,” but the failure of his administration literally forced businesses to close.

Not only did Dunleavy’s weak leadership already harm Alaska, this kind of incompetence at the highest level in our state is still a big problem: Unless voters replace him, the exact same team that fumbled repeatedly getting pandemic relief funds out will be in charge of handling the largest infrastructure bill in recent memory.

Bill Walker and Heidi Drygas are running for governor and lieutenant governor. Their slogan is “rebuild Alaska,” and it’s clear that will only happen on a quick timeline if we have leaders in place who are capable of making the most of the historic federal investment into our state. Bill and Heidi will hire a team of the best and most qualified people in our state. That team will bring home every single infrastructure dollar available to our state instead of sitting back and expecting opportunities to show up without any work.

I was president of the Alaska AFL-CIO when Bill was governor and Heidi was commisioner of Labor and Workforce Development. They clearly understand that healthy businesses can only exist if there are good-paying jobs, and under their leadership we will see many of those jobs created through infrastructure dollars.

We can’t waste another four years on a governor like Mike Dunleavy, who’s obsessed about the things Alaska can’t do: treating workers like enemies and cutting the university, K-12 schools and the ferry. A vote for Bill and Heidi is a vote for competence, for workers and for shifting attention to what we can accomplish when we work together as Alaskans.

Vince Beltrami is the former president of Alaska AFL-CIO and a resident of Cooper Landing.

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