PALMER — Gov. Mike Dunleavy headlined the Greater Palmer Chamber of Commerce lunch at the Palmer Moose Lodge on Wednesday.
Prior to the beginning of the second half of the 31st legislature in Juneau in just over a week, Dunleavy gave a brief history lesson to discuss the location and resource advantages of Alaska and begin to detail his flat budget plan to begin a conversation with the legislature.
“If we didn’t make the reductions we did last year which, I admit were painful and I tell people I could’ve done a much better job in communicating the why’s and we’re going to start trying to make sure people understand that one of the reasons we did the reductions is we don’t have the revenue to pay for it,” said Dunleavy.
Dunleavy began with a joke about the upcoming VPA play involving corruption in politics and continued to make jokes at Texas’ expense throughout the nearly hour long speech. A total of 61 people attended the Chamber of Commerce luncheon to hear Dunleavy as he discussed how he believes resource development and the strategic location in the Arctic will increase investment in Alaska and grow the economy. Dunleavy will again hold discussions in communities throughout Alaska to engage with citizens on how they believe Alaska should look.
“What are the programs that you value, what are the services that you value, how do you want to pay for those programs going forward, what are our economic prospects going forward, how are things going to change potentially for Alaska? We’re going to see that politics are going to matter greatly in Alaska’s future as it has in Alaska’s past,” said Dunleavy.
Dunleavy sat at a table with Senator Shelley Hughes and Representatives Cathy Tilton and DeLena Johnson, as well as the Director of his Mat-Su Office, Todd Smoldon. Dunleavy discussed the juxtaposition of resource development and protection of Alaska’s lands as oil, mining and timber industries search for growth.
“As we know we have new companies in the Arctic helping to create a oil renaissance for the state of Alaska, again depending on how you feel about oil, it still is the money maker for the state of Alaska,” said Dunleavy.
Dunleavy illustrated how he anticipates $1.9 billion in state revenue do pay for $4.4 billion dollars in government and questioned where funding would come from to pay for state provided services and programs.
“There would be no PFD without those reductions,” said Dunleavy.
Dunleavy discussed graphite and a possible processing plant for rare earth minerals in Southeast Alaska, hoping that additional mining operations will grow the economy, disregarding people who he claims want to turn Alaska into a massive state park.
“We’re looking at a warming Arctic. I don’t think any of us can deny that the Arctic is warming,” said Dunleavy. “A lot of folks that care very much for the environment that really believe Alaska should not change and in many cases many these folks have never stepped foot in Alaska but will donate money, support causes, whatever it takes to save Alaska from Alaskans and from others. In other words there is a continuing and growing movement to stop Alaska from developing git’s resources and if that continues the question is then, how does Alaska support itself.”
Dunleavy discussed the history of the purchase of Alaska from Russia, illustrating the reasons of locations and resources. Where in Texas, private property owners also own the minerals beneath their property, Alaska collectivized resources in order to to become a state.
“They wanted us to develop our resources because we had to develop our resources to provide the revenue for government for the state. They demanded it that’s why they collectivized these resources,” said Dunleavy.
Dunleavy discussed changing politics globally and stressed Alaska’s place as an international cargo hub as an opportunity for economic growth. With Ted Stevens International Airport maintaining the 2nd busiest cargo airport in the country, Dunleavy told the crowd that between $500-700 million dollars in upgrades will be added for more cargo handling.