Dunleavy delivers State of the State address to lawmakers

    Gov. Mike Dunleavy is applauded after delivering his State of the State speech before a joint session of the Alaska Legislature in the House Chamber on Tuesday, Jan. 25, at the state Capitol. ( KINY / Klas Stolpe )

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Governor Mike Dunleavy delivered his fourth state of the state address before the legislature last evening.

    In his speech, he highlighted his administration's accomplishments in response to the pandemic, as well as decreasing crime rates, and reducing the state's budget. He addressed the fiscal situation.

    "The state of our fiscal situation is vastly improved from the budget deficit of $1.6 billion I inherited upon taking office, thanks in part to our fiscal restraint over the past three years. We're on track for a budget surplus in the current fiscal year for the first time in a decade," He said.

    Dunleavy said that Alaskans are safer today than they have been in decades.

    "When I first stood before this chamber three years ago, I declared war on criminals, and asked the legislature to repeal and replace the catch and release policies of SB 91. With the help of many of you, we got it done. Policies do matter. We've seen our overall crime rate decline by 10% in 2019, and another 18.5% in 2020."

    He highlighted the value of the permanent fund.

    "Our Permanent Fund is now worth $82 billion and our multibillion-dollar pension gap is virtually close. The performance of the permanent fund solidifies our state government's fiscal situation by smoothing out the highs and lows in oil prices."

    Dunleavy highlighted his administration’s handling of the pandemic. He underlined test and vaccine distribution efforts, as well as work to bolster the healthcare workforce.

    "From the beginning, I was determined that there would be no repeat of 1918 on my watch here in Alaska. By any measure, history will reflect that our actions helped us achieve some of the best outcomes in the nation. The data speaks for itself, and it's irrefutable." He stressed that getting vaccinated is a personal decision. "What we learned about this virus is that it impacts certain groups more than others. But inevitably, it'll continue to mutate into new variants and that will most likely be with us for a very, very long time, if not forever. We've learned with the latest variant that it won't be vaccinated away. As a result, we need to live with it and incorporate it into our daily lives."

    The Governor called for the passage of his PFD proposal, advancements in land reform, and self-sufficiency. He renewed his pledge for the PFD.

    "I've asked the Alaska legislature to follow the statutory formula, and if these bodies will no longer follow that law, they should change the law with the approval of Alaskans. Year after year, I've offered the legislature solutions that I believe would honor Alaskans and solve this issue for the long term," he said. "To break through the gridlock that has paralyzed the legislature since the PFD was first vetoed in 2016, I've offered a plan that would protect the PFD in the constitution for generations to come and would give the people a say in how the PFD is determined."

    To bolster agriculture efforts in the state, he formed a food security task force, and called for land reform.

    "Alaska has more farmland potential than any other state in Texas. More than 95% of land is privately owned. But here in Alaska, the biggest state in the country by far we have barely 4% of our land in private hands. This has got to change," he said. "We often rail against the federal government that holds so much of our land, yet as a state, we hoard our own land like no other, this makes absolutely no sense. To increase our agricultural production and to make the Alaska dream of owning a piece of the last frontier attainable, we must have land reform."

    He says the administration introduced several bills last year that would further the goals of growing an agricultural sector and making land easier for Alaskans, and called on the legislature for their approval.

    He told lawmakers there was a “great obligation” to come together around policies that would solve long-standing issues and create opportunities for generations.

    Above - Gov. Mike Dunleavy shakes hands with Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, after delivering his State of the State speech. Below - Rep. Delena Johnson, R-Palmer, and Sen. Robert Myers, R-North Pole, escort Gov. Mike Dunleavy to the House Chamber.

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