Gov. Bill Walker and the Alaska Legislature have a difficult task ahead.
Facing massive deficits from low prices and production of oil — the state’s primary revenue source — our elected officials soon will be developing the state government’s next fiscal year budget.
They’re quite aware that Alaska’s current level of spending is unsustainable. They know spending reductions are necessary.
The difficulty is how.
And, the perils are many. Few politicians like the political risks of saying “no” to powerful constituencies and friends, especially when their spending requests have merit. The political risks, however, pale in comparison to those posed to Alaska’s economic stability and future if state budget reductions and revenue enhancement aren’t handled well. Given the magnitude of potential deficits, the margins for error appear minimal.
We hope that this governor and Legislature are up to the job, able to move past the acrimony and campaign hyperbole of the recent elections and show real leadership in developing a wise path forward.
In that, we were encouraged by Gov. Walker’s comments during his December visit to Ketchikan.
During the Alaska Class ferries keel-laying ceremony at the Ketchikan Shipyard, Walker — who at that point was less than two weeks into his new job — acknowledged that the oil-price situation isn’t positive for Alaska.
But Walker didn’t bemoan the fact with woe-is-us comments. He took a different approach.
“The price of oil doesn’t determine who we are,” Walker said. “It’s the spirit that’s within us that determines who we are. … The price of oil cannot change the spirit of Alaska.”
Walker had earlier praised the Alaska spirit that he saw in the Ketchikan Shipyard and in the made-in-Alaska manufacturing being done there by Vigor Alaska.
“You are really doing something very special here,” Walker said. “I have used Ketchikan as an example, and I have used this shipyard as an example, to get me to where I am at today.
“We will continue to use that model that you have here, with vision, with guts, with passion, and we-can-get-it-done attitude, to grow this great state,” Walker said.
Some might say these remarks were mere platitudes for a hometown crowd.
Perhaps, but hearing these words from Walker as he stood near two freshly welded ship keels in an Alaska facility that had taken many years of work to develop, they rang true, as coming from an aspiring leader who knows and wants to remind Alaskans of what we can accomplish.
It’s going to take a lot of that spirit — along with a lot of guts and we-can-get-it-done attitude — to navigate the upcoming budget cycles successfully.
Gov. Walker has voiced a good approach for the difficult work ahead. The Legislature would do well to adopt that spirit as it begins the budgeting process.
— Ketchikan Daily News,