Alaska Editorial: Calming effect

  • Wednesday, November 11, 2015 1:06am
  • Opinion

The following editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

Developing a plan and beginning to implement it has a calming effect, and Gov. Bill Walker has achieved that with Alaska’s liquefied natural gas project and likely soon with the budget — if the most recent special legislative session is an indicator, and it is.

There is much about Alaska’s finances to perpetuate unease. The state is in a financial crisis, with a growing $3 billion budget deficit and a severe decline in production of its highest source of revenue: oil.

Unease — at least in part — had lawmakers complaining before the start of the session about the lack of bills provided for their prior review by Gov. Walker.

Despite the complaints, Walker, who clearly had multiple conversations underway with oil-related entities, confidently stated: “I am optimistic that once we actually sit down . . . it will be a productive process.”

It was. The tone and attitudes changed from one week to the next, and legislators, once they listened to what the administration presented, overwhelmingly supported the Walker administration.

In the meantime, Walker, who had proposed a gas reserves tax for oil companies, received assurances from the companies that they would make the natural gas available for the project. Following that assurance, Walker pulled the tax proposal from the special session agenda.

Next, the governor presented to the Legislature a plan to take TransCanada out of the natural gas project, arguing Alaska would gain more control over the project and likely be able to attain financing at friendlier rates.

The Senate endorsed Walker’s plan to authorize $157 million by a vote of 16-3, followed by a 39-0 House vote. TransCanada would receive $68 million for its most recent effort. The balance would be spent by Alaska to move the project forward.

Alaskans depend on legislators, who are paid representation, to listen to proposals such as the one with TransCanada and vote. Unlike past votes regarding Alaska’s natural resources that passionately divided and dismayed, the lawmakers almost unanimously endorsed Walker’s plan.

With the Legislature and Walker solidly behind the decision, it tells Alaskans that while there’s a long way to go to the production point, this currently is the best calculated approach toward eventual success.

That Standards & Poor’s patted Gov. Walker on the back for proposed changes to the Alaska Permanent Fund in an effort to resolve the state’s budget deficit situation only adds to the calming effect Alaskans have most recently experienced and appreciate in government leadership. It still remains to be seen whether the proposal will win with legislators and other Alaskans, but it’s one plan to be considered.

And a plan is the beginning to a solution.

Walker signed the TransCanada buyout bill immediately following the close of the special session. He is expected to complete the buyout by Dec. 1. Dec. 4 is the date Walker and the oil companies with natural gas are expected to approve their own work plan and budget for the upcoming year.

Alaska has begun to execute a natural gas project plan that is: a) solidly supported, b) considered the best way to provide energy to Alaskans and Outside, and c) increase state revenue. The plan is a precursor to success.

More in Opinion

Web
Have something to say?

Here’s how to add your voice to the conversation.

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: Quality of treatment at Bartlett Regional Hospital is excellent

I recently experienced a relatively serious chest injury and received treatment at… Continue reading

Passengers of the Norwegian Bliss look out across downtown Juneau as they wait to disembark on April 17, 2023. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
My Turn: Juneau’s economy is not on the line — Ship-Free Saturdays is about better balance

Judging by the “Save Juneau” posters one would think that Juneau’s economic… Continue reading

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan addresses a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature in the House chambers on Feb. 7, 2023. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Sen. Sullivan sinks to a new low

Last week, Sen. Dan Sullivan mimicked Donald Trump’s endless stream of baseless… Continue reading

Members of local business organizations greet cruise passengers with maps and other handouts as they disembark from the Norwegian Bliss on April 25, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire file photo)
A call for collaboration, not restrictions on cruise ship tourism

Please don’t sign. I feel it is time to speak up about… Continue reading

Juneau School District Superintendent Frank Hauser provides an overview of restructuring options being considered during a Community Budget Input Session at Thunder Mountain High School on Jan. 31. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Smearing school board members and the superintendent is vindictive and destructive

A school consolidation plan announced by the Juneau School District (JSD) has… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: Gloomy predictions for ship-free days are a misleading scare tactic

“What? Only one day a week ship-free? Can’t we have Sundays too?”… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: A day of rest from cruise ships is good for Juneau

A lot has been said about the Saturday free day from large… Continue reading

Most Read