By Dave Donaldson
Governor Parnell will make his first State of the State speech tonight (Wednesday) to a joint session of the House and Senate, where he will show the direction he wants to take the state in the coming year.
Gerry Gallagher, his legislative liaison and communications director, says a simple look at the focus of the legislation the governor has introduced so far — and those he will continue to introduce over the next few weeks — shows the administration’s focus on jobs and the needs of Alaska’s families.
You look at his budget, and you look at the activity that he’s asking the agencies to emphasize, and you will see the area of jobs and economy woven throughout those. That is the common theme that you’re going to hear the governor talking about and his actions are going to focus on those and the emphasis is going to focus on those.
As examples, Gallagher points to the governor’s budget that spends money on state buildings that need repairs. The governor sees that work as jobs for Alaska craftsmen. He also mentions the Domestic Violence package of legislation, the merit scholarship plan for Alaska high school graduates, increased relief in state disasters … and oil taxes.
Even the tax credits the governor talked about the other day to make some changes to ACES — the significant part of that is the tax credits that have been described only come into effect if you’re drilling wells. So that results in more jobs and more oil production in the pipeline.
In recent years, Democrats have been the swing votes that have decided issues between factions within the House Republicans. And while not in line with the governor, Democrats’ hopes for the session are not too far removed from his. Fairbanks’ David Guttenberg says the House Minority supports job growth and the return of economic benefits to Alaskans.
We have all the resources you would ever want. We need to be developing them well for Alaskans. Jobs, educational opportunities from vo-tech to Ph.d programs. We have the ability to be self-sustaining in many ways that we are the envy of many places. We’ve got the tools, we just need to put them in place.
For example, Democrats want to see a scholarship program that is not only merit-based, like the governor’s. They also want to include more opportunity for those who would qualify for a scholarship based on need. Oil tax incentives could get their support if they see a benefit to Alaskans. Anchorage Democrat Mike Doogan says the Democrats will support anyone who supports their priorities — be it the governor or a member of the majority.
Gallagher says the governor has a very short list of bills that he plans to introduce this year — only about a half-dozen topics.
The speech can be heard on many of these APRN stations beginning at seven this evening.