With session over, governor tours state to promote budget solutions
Gov. Bill Walker is traveling the state to meet with local assemblies after he announced a slew of vetoes to the state budget that will increase costs for communities, as well as a cut to Permanent Fund Dividend checks this fall. In light of the state’s multi-billion dollar budget problem, Walker is receiving praise in some communities.
Since last month, Walker has made appearances at the Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna Borough assemblies and the Homer City Council to talk about his fiscal plan, which includes annual use of the permanent fund’s earning for the state budget and a broad-based tax.
In Homer, Walker received a warm welcome, including a standing ovation. Walker said he thinks it’s a sign Alaskans are realizing that the state is in tough financial times.
“I’m not saying that there isn’t pushback, there certainly is pushback,” Walker said in an interview Friday. “It’s not unanimous by any stretch of the imagination, but I am encouraged by the number of people who’ve come up, and you know, stopped me in a restaurant or the airport and say, ‘You know, thanks for doing what you’re doing, you’re making tough decisions.'”
When asked whether he’s considering having Alaskans vote on his long-term plan to use part of the permanent fund for government, Walker said he believes it’s a legislative issue.
“I think the voters will weigh in perhaps in the fall, and in sort of how they vote for various folks, so we’ll see what comes out after that,” Walker said.
Walker’s popularity among Alaskans has slowly declined since last September, according to Alaska Survey Research. The group polls on the topic every three months, with its newest set of numbers coming out next month. Ivan Moore, president of the organization, said he expects the downward trend to continue.
Grace Jang, a spokesperson for Walker, said the governor will continue to speak at assembly meetings around the state, including an appearance in Kotzebue next week.
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