FULL SPEECH: Gov. Walker delivers State of the State
Follow along with Governor Walker's State of the State address with LIVE updates from the KTVA team in Juneau. Contextual information is indicated by italics; Governor Walker's comments will be in quotes. KTVA Anchor and Reporter, Emily Carlson, is offering reaction from lawmakers in the audience in Juneau.
Read the full text of Governor Walker's State of the State address below, or watch the full speech above.
Walker concludes his speech and leaves the podium.
Walker's proposal to cut Legislature pay for inability to pass budget after 90 days has already been panned in one committee meeting.
"When we don't pass a budget on schedule, the fishing industry openers are interrupted, the Alaska Marine Highway System can't publish a schedule, teachers get pink slips, and our entire economy is held back by this annual uncertainty.
"Any system that cannot deliver a budget within 90 legislative days is broken, and anyone who can't see that, or who refuses to address it, is complicit in that failure.
"Passing a budget on time is not complicated. Other states do it on time. So can we.
"The California legislature, for instance, was late passing the budget 25 out of 30 years. The citizens, fed up with the politics, demanded more. In 2010, they voted to stop legislators' pay if the budget was not passed on time. Since then, with one exception, the California budget has passed on time each year.
"Following statehood, the first Alaska legislature was in session a total of 146 days over the two-year session. During those two years, they organized the new government, passed a budget, created 12 executive departments, the court system, the retirement system, numerous professional licensing boards, and passed 387 bills.
"This week we began our second year of the 30th legislative session. During the first year, 2017, we were in session 211 days and passed 32 bills."
Sitting behind Walker on the left is Senate President Pete Kelly. He has been steadfast against any tax proposal.
Paying down oil tax credits has been a difficult path for Legislature and Walker.
"This past session, the House did pass a complete fiscal plan. Thank you.
"And, the Senate and House both passed legislation that reduced the permanent fund dividend to a sustainable level.
"Nobody in this building wanted to reduce the PFD. I know how hard that decision
"But I also know that the worst decision we can make at this time is no decision. Our fiscal problems will not be solved through inaction.
"I also thank both bodies for bringing the small explorer oil tax credit program to an end. This was a necessary step in getting our fiscal house in order. Now that the program has terminated, I have introduced legislation to pay the credits owed to these companies at a discounted amount that results in no additional costs to the state."
Walker has struggled to get the Legislature on board with his fiscal plan proposals.
Walker unilaterally expanded Medicaid, a decision that survived a lawsuit from the Legislature.
Climate change has been a greater priority. Last year Walker established a climate change task force.
Walker has spent much of his speech reviewing what he deems to be accomplishments.
Crime has been a growing issue among lawmakers and Walker.
Alaskans, leaders take on opioid abuse at town hall
"We are assembling a multi-industry trade mission to Asia this year to advance other opportunities with our largest trade partners. We are also working to begin direct flights from Asia to Alaska. This will help us attract more of the 100 million-plus Asian vacationers each year to further enhance our extraordinary tourism industry.
"Alaska is open for business, and we want the world to know it."
Walker has been keeping his speech positive -- so far -- by touting its future but also strong performances from tourism and fishing industries
Walker's signature priority is marketing North Slope natural gas and building a natural pipeline to a liquefied natural gas plant
"It is fortunate that the legislature created the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation in 2010 and that the late Dan Fauske skillfully put the organizational structure together.
"I am frequently asked how the joint development agreement we signed on November 9 in Beijing between Alaska and China is different from prior agreements. Let me briefly explain.
"First: Alaska, at the request of the producers, has taken the lead in the gasline project.
"And, for the first time in the project's history, we are working directly with the liquefied natural gas (LNG) markets.
"Second: China's participants in the LNG project are among the largest companies and energy consumers in the world. They include the world's largest integrated oil and gas company, the world's fourth largest bank and the world's second largest sovereign wealth fund.
"Third: China has long been Alaska's largest trade partner. With its 1.4 billion population, China wants Alaska's clean burning gas.
Fourth: The Alaska LNG project has the full support of the President of the United States and the President of China. Both leaders now have a vested interest in its success.
"At the federal level, AGDC has been granted tax-exempt status, which significantly improves the project’s economics. The White House has also granted fasttrack status to the project to help expedite review and permitting."
"To our military men and women and first responders who run toward danger to protect and defend others, you are our everyday heroes. To the families of the three young Alaskans – Private First Class Hansen Kirkpatrick, Chief Warrant Officer Jacob Sims, and Staff Sergeant David Brabander – who lost their lives last year while in combat and in support of combat operations, we extend our deepest sympathies and enduring gratitude.
"A debt of gratitude is also owed to our 70,000 Alaskan veterans.
"Thank you all for your sacrifice, your service and your selfless dedication to this state and this nation.
Finally, to my fellow Alaskans watching or listening all over the state. Being informed is critical to being part of the solution. Thank you for your engagement tonight."
On Thursday evening, Gov. Bill Walker will deliver his fourth State of the State speech to the Alaska Legislature at the state Capitol.
Lawmakers will be tightly packed into the House chambers at 7 p.m. awaiting Walker’s address. KTVA.com will carry a live stream of the speech.
Last year, Walker emphasized the need to craft a fiscal plan, but the Legislature has been unable to agree on a plan that closes a $2.5 billion budget gap.
“Here is the hard truth,” he told lawmakers last year. “Denial doesn’t make the problem go away. Hope doesn’t pay the bills. We need to pass a plan to stabilize our fiscal future. And we need it now.”
Speeches such as these are often a review of what happened since the previous speech, but several lawmakers have said they want a proactive address, not just a look back.
“I would like to see something that is more forward-looking, something along the lines of an action plan, even though that’s not the nature of a State of the State,” said House Speaker Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham). “But I’d like something in the last session of his first term -- and we certainly don’t know if he’s getting a second term at this point – that helps point all of us in the direction of accomplishing a long-term plan that puts our economy in a stabilized mode.”
Senate President Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks) says he also would like a plan, rather than a restatement of Walker's previous calls for solutions including taxes.
“I want to hear about a path forward on how we pull this economy out of a recession,” Kelly said . “Extrapolations of how we will do that by taxing people and taking their money out of the private economy aren’t going to get it for me.”
Kelly said he would also like an update on a proposed natural gas pipeline to be built with Chinese investment, including new details to give the Legislature confidence about his plan.
“I’d like to hear quantifiable facts on that. He’s going through a difficult process right now where you don’t have a lot to show, but you know there is progress,” he said. “I want to know some of the things he can show and I want to hear about the progress that maybe you can’t.”
Last year, Walker did not offer the look ahead Kelly seeks.
“To be ready in 2023 to 2025, we must stay on course,” Walker told lawmakers in 2017. “We have no other project that will revitalize our economy the way the gas line will.”
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