Will Walker put Alaskans first?

The Alaska Dispatch recently published an article written by East Anchorage Sen. Bill Wielechowski that criticized our state’s fiscal (and inherently political) priorities. Sen. Wielechowski’s well-written concerns, as many can imagine, are shared among Alaskans all over the state. 

Juneau has listened –– hopefully with open ears –– to testimony from our students, educators and leaders who are troubled by the standing budget priorities. More than $47 million will be cut in education funds from a state already struggling to provide sufficient access to education; $1.5 million will gut domestic violence prevention and social leadership programs; cuts will affect the public radio programs that educate and engage the community. 

Yet, proposals to shortly delay payments on oil tax credits, which are predicted to put us $400 million further in debt, were deflected; state workers were denied a pay raise, yet state executives were not. Cost-cutting for big and expensive projects were promised, yet million-dollar projects such as the Bragraw Street extension will continue despite the East Anchorage community’s explicit rejection of its necessity. 

We heard the state loud and clear when they told us that cuts would be being made left and right, but they failed to mention that oil companies and high-earning executives were exempt from that statement. 

Understand that there is no intention of blaming Gov. Walker for the prioritization of oil companies and millionaires over hard-working Alaskans in our state Legislature. Such an accusation would be irresponsible and dishonest to Walker’s administration. 

In fact, the Alaska Journal of Commerce and others made Alaskans aware that Walker himself flagged the issue regarding oil tax credits. Bravo to Gov. Walker for that! However, there is widespread frustration concerning our state’s willingness to whither away education, violence prevention and public radio funds before giving big oil companies a firm“no.”

 Ultimately, Gov. Walker issues the final stroke of the pen when he reviews the budget in a few short days. As the newly elected governor, who was elected on a strong and inspiring campaign to put Alaska first, we expect this budget deal to be a test of Walker’s promise. 

Robert Hockema