FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) While Governor Mike Dunleavy was in Fairbanks on Tuesday, we sat down with him to talk about current issues in the state.
With the budget being a large conversation across the state, Dunleavy said he wanted to talk about some good things that are happening in Alaska.
“Unemployment is down, it's down to about 6.25 percent, 6.3 percent. This is the lowest it's been in nine years in the State of Alaska, which is significant news. We have a state GDP increase in the first quarter of 3.6 percent, which means our economy has grown, which is good news.”
He went on to talk about some of the large investments going in on the North Slope and at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
“We are pretty optimistic that in the near future we actually may have a rail link with the lower 48 through Alberta. I know this has been talked about for years but because of Alaska's proximity to Asia and our ability to export out of our port, Alberta, which is having a difficult time moving some of their oil products because of constraints down in Canada and the Lower 48, is looking at going north to Alaska.”
Dunleavy says things are looking up in Alaska.
“I just wanted to let folks know that it's not all about the budget and reducing the budget but unemployment is down, employment is up, the state is growing in terms of its GDP, there's more investment coming to the state. Those oil fines on the slope are projected to put about 3-5 hundred thousand barrels of oil into the pipeline buy 2029, which would almost double our current throughput so it's really all very good news for Alaska."
When asked what he thinks some of the biggest challenges facing Alaska are right now, Dunleavy said that the state still has to get their fiscal picture figured out.
“Whether it's going to be reducing more and to what extent. The issue of the PFD is still being debated, I'm an advocate of a full PFD for the people of Alaska, and there are others that believe that they don't think that we can afford the PFD going forward so this is a discussion that's continuing. Again well what size and amount, to what extend are we going to be looking at reductions this year? How are we going to keep growing Alaska? Because that's one of my main goals is to grow the pie, so that we get more revenue for the state of Alaska, as well as creating more jobs and wealth for the private sector. So I would say the budget is going to be a big issue and also looking at some education reform ideas to improve reading across the board for our students and make sure all our students are proficient in Algebra by the time they leave the eighth grade." Dunleavy was asked what the answer is to vulnerable populations in Alaska who are impacted by cuts to the budget, including seniors at Pioneer Homes and the homeless population. "With regard to the homeless population, we recognize that that's an issue, we recognize that people need assistance. We made reductions in the homeless grants, but that doesn't tell the whole story, there continues to be millions of dollars that the state itself is putting into the homeless situation to help with that. We're having discussions with those that advocate for the homeless. What is the best approach to deal with homelessness in the State of Alaska? Same thing with our seniors, we made reductions in those areas, for example in senior benefits, and then we had conversations with those groups that advocate for seniors as well as seniors themselves. What we're finding is that as Alaska's population ages, many of our seniors are here without families that may have moved to the Lower 48. People may say well didn't you know that, you don't really know the depth of it, and the extent of it until you go through a process such as we have so that folks are contacting the administration, talking to their legislators about these issues so as a result of that feedback, we've made some changes in the budget, and we've put money back in to support some of these groups that are, as you would say, and I agree, vulnerable, in the State of Alaska."
When asked what his response was to the recall effort, Dunleavy said they were informed that folks were trying to get a recall going after just two or three months after he got elected.
“I think there are some folks that never accepted the outcome of the election, I think there were some folks that were upset with the vetoes, and so my view is, I have to keep governing and do what’s best for Alaska, I’ll keep engaging and talking with folks, even those folks that are part of this effort. But in the end, I think most Alaskans can see that we are taking a look at Alaska in a manner to have better outcomes for all Alaskans. We are looking out for Alaska and the best interest of everybody, so we’ll continue to have discussions with folks, we talk with folks constantly that were not happy with some of the vetoes, were not happy with some of the decisions, and we keep listening to the feedback, and looking at where we can make adjustments when necessary.”
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