As lawmakers and Gov. Bill Walker continue to wrestle with the state’s budget crisis, some wonder how his predecessor would have handled the situation.

These days, Sean Parnell practices business law in Palmer, wears glasses and seems to smile and laugh a lot more. But one thing hasn’t changed: Parnell still keeps his cards close to the vest.

When asked about how he would solve Alaska’s $3 billion budget gap, he said, “I’m not going there right now.”

“I’m not going to tell you what to do. I had 16 years of being able to do that in elected office,” Parnell said. “But what I will tell you is focus on stabilizing the ship. Don’t do anything to de-stabilize it further.”

Parnell says an income tax could do that. He wouldn’t say whether Permanent Fund earnings should be part of the budget fix. He believes more budget cuts are in order, a position held by the Republican majority in the Senate.

Parnell advises the legislature to proceed with caution.

“There is a false narrative that you have to fix it all at once with Permanent Fund earnings and all of these new taxes – because if you don’t, we’re going to be in the hole,” said Parnell. “The reality is, the fix is a moving target because of the price of oil.”

Before Parnell left office, the price of oil was about twice as much as it is now, and a natural gas project was on the fast track.

Parnell wouldn’t comment on Walker’s handling of that project.

“The governor went off the track I was on, and [the track] the legislature was on at the time,” he said. “I’m frankly not as informed about that track now, as when I was deep in the negotiations. I best stay out of it at this point.”

One question the former governor didn’t dodge — is he done with politics?

“You never say never, right,” said Parnell.

So would he consider a run for governor?

“I love this state and would love to serve her again, but I don’t have those plans right now,” he said.

Right now Parnell says the top priority for him and his wife Sandy is to be the best grandparents they can be for their two grandkids.

Parnell served as Lt. Governor in Sarah Palin’s administration from 2006 to 2009. After Palin resigned, he finished her term and was elected governor in 2010. He lost his bid for re-election in 2014 to Walker.

Editors note: KTVA’s Rhonda McBride had an in-depth discussion with Sean Parnell about the “Choose Respect” campaign he launched in 2008. To see that portion of the interview, watch Frontiers on Sunday, April 30. It airs twice – at 4:30 and 10:30 p.m. on KTVA, Channel 11.

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