What others say: Gov. Walker takes office amid state revenue downturn

  • Sunday, December 7, 2014 5:08pm
  • Opinion

On Monday afternoon, Alaska’s 11th governor officially took office. By Gov. Bill Walker’s own reckoning, the time between Election Day Nov. 4 and his inauguration had been a whirlwind. “I never thought I’d be sitting where I’m sitting,” he told reporters Monday afternoon at his first press conference since taking the oath of office. Even though Gov. Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott have been in office for less than a day, the administration’s statements on day one contained some hopeful signs for Alaska — even as the state’s biggest challenges still await.

Gov. Walker bid a cordial goodbye to outgoing Gov. Sean Parnell at the inauguration ceremony in Juneau — and wasted no time in setting markers for how his administration would differ in a significant way from that of his predecessor — starting with accepting an expansion of Medicaid. “Up to 40,000 of our friends, family members, neighbors and coworkers have gone too long without preventive care,” Gov. Walker told the inauguration audience. “We must fix that.”

Gov. Parnell, saying he feared the federal government would eventually unload costs on the state, declined to expand Medicaid during his tenure despite the tens of thousands of Alaskans who fell into the gap between Medicaid recipients and those able to afford plans on the state health care exchange. Gov. Walker said he plans to begin the process to accept Medicaid expansion immediately.

In areas where he felt Gov. Parnell and his administration had made better progress, Gov. Walker signaled willingness to continue the work that the office’s previous occupants began, as with steps toward a full-diameter natural gas pipeline. “Alaska doesn’t have a resource problem,” the governor said, “It has a distribution problem.” That statement garnered the strongest applause of any at the inauguration. It’s true: Alaska, rich in size and commodity abundance, has never had an issue with a lack of resources. The problems arise in trying to develop those resources and move them to market in a cost-effective way. Gov. Walker has so far suggested the state should take more ownership and development responsibility for those resources. If he can manage a path to make that happen economically for the state and its people, it will be a bold step forward for Alaska. If that vision doesn’t bear out, creating a path to long-term prosperity for the state will be far more challenging for Gov. Walker.

The new governor acknowledged that challenge in his inaugural speech, drawing parallels between challenges that faced his family and the state. Recalling lean times, he spoke of putting up with leaky roofs as a child and fetching wood in windy winter conditions. The implication was clear: like Gov. Walker and his family, Alaska may well be in for hard financial times in coming years. The state’s prospects are diminishing in the decline of oil wealth that has been the state’s economic engine for decades. How long that economic dip lasts — and how deep it falls — will have much to do with the success or failure of Gov. Walker’s vision for Alaska.

— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Dec. 1

More in Opinion

t
Opinion: Freedom in the classroom sets precedence for the future

We advocate for the adoption of legislation to protect students’ First Amendment rights…

A roll of “I Voted” stickers await voters on Election Day in Alaska. Voters overwhelmingly rejected the prospect of a state constitutional convention. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Election winners, losers and poor losers

Tshibaka and Palin misread Alaskans by thinking Trump’s endorsement all but guaranteed they’d win.

This 1981 photo provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows an electron micrograph of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, also known as RSV. Children’s hospitals in parts of the country are seeing a distressing surge in RSV, a common respiratory illness that can cause severe breathing problems for babies. Cases fell dramatically two years ago as the pandemic shut down schools, day cares and businesses. Then, with restrictions easing, the summer of 2021 brought an alarming increase in what is normally a fall and winter virus. (CDC via AP)
Alaska Voices: What Alaskans need to know about RSV

By learning more about respiratory illnesses and taking helpful actions, we can all take steps to improve the situation

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Multiplying the power of every local dollar given

Each community foundation is a public charity that focuses on supporting a geographic area by pooling donations to meet community needs

The Homer Public Library as seen on Aug. 18, 2021, in Homer, Alaska. (File photo by Sarah Knapp/Homer News)
Point of View: Banning books corrodes diversity and inclusion in our community

Recently, a community member requested that a long list of books be removed from the children’s collection

Peninsula Oilers fans display encouragin signs for Oilers’ pitcher Bryan Woo, Friday, June 28, 2019, at Coral Seymour Memorial Park in Kenai. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)
Gavel (Courtesy photo)
Opinion: Judging judges — balancing the judicial selection process

Alaska’s method of selecting judges can be and should be improved.

Sarah Palin speaks at a July 11 Save America Rally featuring former President Donald Trump at Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The realities of Palin’s political demise

Palin wouldn’t be running for the seat if Rep. Don Young was still alive

Former Democratic state Rep. Beth Kerttula holds up a sign reading “Vote No Con Con,” during a recent rally at the Dimond Courthouse Plaza in Juneau. Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: What can a liberal and conservative agree on? Voting against a constitutional convention

“We disagree on many issues. But we… urge Alaskans to vote against Proposition 1.”

A “Vote Here” sign is seen at the City of Kenai building on Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, in Kenai, Alaska. (Clarion file)
Down to the wire: Be prepared before you vote

Remember your voice counts and all votes matter

Soldotna City Council member Justin Ruffridge. (Courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: We must refuse to reward ugly political tactics

With our vote we have to show that extremism and dishonesty do not win the day