Updated Post — Jan. 25, 2021, 10:30 p.m.
In his fourth State of the State address on Tuesday evening, Gov. Mike Dunleavy called on the Legislature to pass bills to resolve permanent fund dividends, increase Alaskans’ food security and sell state land.
And he urged lawmakers to prove people wrong who say nothing will get done in an election year.
“Most Alaskans outside this room don’t plan their lives around an election season,” he said. “They plan their lives around hunting or fishing, construction season or tourism season, but not an election season. Alaskans won’t accept that we can’t get anything done because it’s an election year.”
It was the first in-person address Dunleavy gave to a joint session since before the pandemic led to changes in safety rules in the Capitol. And at nearly an hour, it was his longest State of the State.
Dunleavy said he envisioned a state where educational outcomes improve and people feel safer.
He also described different state efforts to increase the number of health care workers in the state, including plans to train more certified nursing assistants and registered nurses, as well as his proposal to increase the number of state-supported medical students from 20 to 30.
“Together, with these partners, we’ll build a stronger, more durable health care system in Alaska that can respond to almost any situation,” he said.
Dunleavy said the state is at the mercy of others for its food, and he wants to increase the state’s food security. That includes plans to start a food security task force and to sell state land for agriculture.
He contrasted the state with Texas, where 95% of the 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,” he said. “This has got to change.”
Senate President Peter Micciche, a Soldotna Republican, praised the speech, including what the governor described as his vision for the state.
“The test is going to be how serious is that vision,” Micciche said. “And is the administration going to put the work in on being here in this building for the next 90 days, guiding us through and working with us?”
Some of the legislation that Dunleavy described has already been introduced. But he said he would issue an executive order and introduce a bill to start the food security task force.
Dunleavy recognized two young Alaskans who had big years: Olympic gold medalist Lydia Jacoby, who wasn’t in the Capitol, and Miss America Emma Broyles, who was.
But the biggest applause of the night was for another guest of the governor, Carley Rose Kelly. Dunleavy described how she survived domestic violence, drug addiction and homelessness to become a peer support specialist for at-risk youth.
Anchorage Democratic Rep. Ivy Spohnholz wrote on social media after the address that more Alaskans would experience recovery if Dunleavy hadn’t vetoed $10 million for treatment centers in 2019. A spokesperson for the governor said at the time that the money wasn’t attached to specific projects.
Original Post — Jan. 25, 2021, 5:00 p.m.
By Jeremy Hsieh, KTOO
Gov. Mike Dunleavy is set to deliver his fourth State of the State address at 7 p.m. Tuesday from the Capitol in Juneau.
This address marks a partial return to normalcy for the annual speech, which he delivered remotely from his office in Anchorage last year due to the pandemic. Lawmakers have since relaxed some of its COVID-19 rules and the Capitol is open to the public.
Andrew Kitchenman, who covers the statehouse for KTOO and Alaska Public Media, discussed the upcoming speech. He says the state is in a much different situation now than during Dunleavy’s first address to lawmakers in 2019. That first year, Dunleavy shocked many Alaskans with proposals for sweeping cuts to state budgets and services. Kitchenman says the governor’s budget proposal is notable this year for the opposite reason.
“This is the first budget that he’s proposed that neither draws down state savings, nor includes large cuts to state programs and state spending,” Kitchenman said. “And that’s basically possible for three reasons: Growth in the permanent fund, the high price of oil right now, and the large amount of federal aid that’s come in as a result of the pandemic.”
Kitchenman says the idea of making Alaska more self-sufficient has been a recurring theme in Dunleavy’s past speeches. For example, food security, energy independence and medical supplies all came up last year.
He says he’s also listening for what the governor has to say about Alaska’s elections.
“I’m interested in what he has to say about election legislation. That is a big topic right now, and the first non-budget bill that the administration is sponsoring this session is an election bill.”