Governor Mike Dunleavy discusses current events and future plans in his second term

Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 3:37 PM AKST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Governor Mike Dunleavy gave the first State of the State address in his second term on January 23, 2023. During the address, he spoke about many different topics and how his administration will engage various issues and developments in the next four years. He also highlighted some of the successes for his administration. Newscenter Fairbanks had the opportunity to speak further with the governor on some of these topics.

Governor Dunleavy started and ended his address on two topics that have had a complicated history.

At the beginning of his speech, Governor Dunleavy highlighted efforts and goals to reduce sex crime in Alaska. “We definitely have an issue with domestic violence and sexual assault,” said Dunleavy. “We’ve implemented a number of initiatives and we’ve filed a number of bills; some of the bills we’ve gotten passed.” The governor said that more bills, focusing on sex crimes such as sexual assault and trafficking, will be filed this year. Dunleavy also stated he wanted to make Alaska the most pro-life state in the union. But, in other states such as Ohio, the implementation of pro-life policy has lead to minors seeking abortions across state lines. This particular task is not as easily done here in Alaska. When asked about the ability to achieve both goals, Dunleavy said, “I don’t see a disconnect on being pro-life and pro-safety and anti-crime. So, we’re going to be working on all of it.”

The existence and use of fentanyl is another criminal issue Alaska is facing at large, much like the rest of the nation. During the State of the State address, Governor Dunleavy stated that he wanted to see an increase to punishments for those found guilty of dealing in fentanyl. “I know so many people that have lost friends and loved ones from this. I’ve lost former students of mine from this,” said Dunleavy. He went on to say that the fentanyl epidemic impacts everyone, regardless of socio-economic status. During the next four years, the governor intends to take a multipronged approach that involves cracking down on suppliers and rehabilitating those who are addicted to opioids. He would also like to see education programs developed in addition to aiding users. “We wanted to target the folks that are dealing in it because when you deal in something like fentanyl, you have a total disregard for the lives of people,” said Dunleavy.

The governor also added that he would like to increase cooperative efforts with the federal government in the shared effort to counter the illegal supply of fentanyl in the United States.

On the other side of drug policy, Governor Dunleavy worked to establish the marijuana task force in an effort to identify areas in the state’s cannabis industry that might benefit from reform. Yet, economists from the Department of Labor and Workforce development have stated that Alaska’s cannabis industry might be seeing a plateau in the growth of the industry. Dunleavy explained how the task force will address the industry. “The task force is really set up to look at all aspects of the industry. by industry folks as well,” said Dunleavy. One focus of the task force will be to look at possible tax reform which could help the industry and the state.

In other plant-based industries, Dunleavy’s administration has put considerable work into expanding Alaska’s domestic food production. The governor explained this effort was brought on by the impacts that the pandemic had on Alaska’s supply chain. “We want to as the state ... help support that industry and grow that industry as much as possible, so we can feed ourselves as much as possible,” Governor Dunleavy said.

In addition to expanding food production, Governor Dunleavy has expressed a desire to expand Alaska’s energy development, not only through oil, but natural gas, clean renewables, and micro-nuclear reactors. “Energy is also tied in to that. We’ve had offers by folks to come up and purchase land where they would grow grains or other products and they would power that with renewable energy in the summertime,” said Dunleavy.

The governor also spoke on his interest in developing nuclear energy in the state. Something that he said has already been done in Delta Junction. One reason he wants to develop nuclear energy in the state includes the historically low count of deaths or injuries caused by nuclear reactors, compared to mining for resources in which “thousands of people die,” every year. Some of his other reasons include the longevity of the fuel source and the ability to use the heat produced by nuclear waste.

The development of energy sources spans to improvements in other sectors as well. Governor Dunleavy mentioned that one improvement for the Alaska Marine Highway that is possible, is retrofitting some of the ports in the southeast, “so that they can sell their cheap hydro electricity for example to cruise lines when they come in,” said Dunleavy. He also highlighted other improvements for the Alaska Marine Highway, such as the development of an electric ferry and the return, replacement or improvement of various ferries in the fleet.

Along side infrastructure, Dunleavy spoke about multiple ways that the last four years saw improvements to services provided for youth in our state. One such example was the expansion of pediatric services at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute. Yet, efforts to improve support for education are continuing after the Alaska Reads Act was passed.

Governor Dunleavy explained what is being considered in Juneau as legislators look into increasing education support. According to the governor, there are three topics being focused on. Funding, falling school populations, and education outcomes. The governor said he would be surprised if only one of those factors was moved forward without the others.

As spring nears, the time to reassess the situation faced by communities that were hit by the remnants of Typhoon Merbok also grow closer. Governor Dunleavy spoke about his observations as he toured Alaska’s west coast during the recovery efforts. “I think a lot of progress was made,” said Dunleavy. He mentioned efforts such as levelling houses, dealing with saturated insulation and ensuring the electric grid was working. However, roadwork and seawall repair remains to be finished and airports may also need more repairs after the assessment in the spring is completed. That assessment should also let the state know whether or not there is a need to invest more resources into the seawall as a mitigation tool.