‘You can’t get them all’: Alaska Sen. Dennis Egan discusses ups and downs working in Legislature

“What are you going to do me? Fire me?”

With those words, Sen. Dennis Egan, D-Juneau, brought the Juneau Chamber of Commerce to laughter and applause during the final legislative wrapup speech of his career.

Egan, who is retiring from the Legislature after nine years of service (and many more as Mayor, radio station boss and public figure) spoke to the Chamber Thursday during its weekly luncheon at the Moose Lodge. It has been his custom to wrap up each year’s accomplishments with an address to the Chamber.

While Egan said he didn’t know what he was going to talk about, he still had plenty to say. While he touched on several different topics, he narrowed his focus to one thing working together.

“We have to get along,” Egan said. “Whether you are an ‘R’ (Republican) or a ‘D,’ (Democrat) we have to work together or we won’t get anything done. So many great people want to help Alaska, but we have to get along or we won’t get anything accomplished.”

Egan referred to this by discussing some moves the Legislature made this past session. Education, Egan said, was one part that he believes is still in need. Egan pointed out that schools in Alaska will get $20 million in additional funding (over last year’s numbers) for Fiscal Year 2019 and $30 million more for FY20. He added that the base student allocation was also increased, but more still needs to be done.

“If we are going to survive and are youngsters are going to survive, we need to have folks with a decent education,” Egan said. “We made increases, but I do not think it was enough.”

Egan also showed his support for the $21.3 million Juneau Access road money that was restored to the project. Egan said not having a way out of Juneau, other than by boat or plane, has a negative impact.

“When we leave town to go to other parts of the state, people tell us we are as bad as going to Honolulu,” Egan said. “It does not need to be that way.” 

Looking further back on his career, Egan referenced two major projects he made possible.

“I can’t be prouder of the world-class APK (Andrew P. Kashevaroff) Building and the $34 million of work done to the Capitol building,” Egan said. “It may not have looked like much was done (at the Capitol) but now it is seismically correct. That building is ready for another hundred years.”

Egan didn’t only discuss successes. Egan said he was still upset that the attempt to bring back the Alaska pension system did not work out. His plan would have given public employees a choice between earning a defined benefit pension or a defined contribution retirement saving plan.

“One of the saddest things to me was that the pension plan did not pass,” Egan said.

Despite the ups and downs during his tenure, Egan said he will leave the Alaska Senate pleased with what he was able to accomplish.

“I think my time was successful,” Egan said. “I feel personally proud of things I did get through and I feel concerned about some of the things I did not get through. You can’t get them all.”

• Contact reporter Gregory Philson at gphilson@juneauempire.com or call at 523-2265. Follow him on Twitter at @GTPhilson.

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