OPINION: Ketchikan deserves a governor who understands, invests in Coastal Alaska

By Bill Walker
Ketchikan Daily News | October 19, 2022

I clearly recall Donna’s and my first trip to Ketchikan. Before heading to Ketchikan, my then-campaign chair, Governor Wally Hickel told me, “There is something special about Ketchikan!”

There are two kinds of politics. Politics for power, and politics for purpose. My running mate, Heidi Drygas, and I are definitely the politics for purpose kind of Alaskans. Both Fairbanks born. I was raised in Valdez, Heidi in Fairbanks and we are both Alaskan, through and through. 

It was the honor of my life to go from being a carpenter in Valdez to Governor of this great state. I didn’t think I would be running again but it is the lack of political courage by the current governor that causes me to step forward again. 

Yes, I took aggressive action to right Alaska’s financial ship. We were careful in our budget reductions to not impact critical infrastructure such as the Alaska Marine Highway System.

I also acknowledged it was time to, by legislation, start transferring a portion of the earnings of the Permanent Fund as a structured draw to help fund government services each year while still growing the Permanent Fund. In order to do that, I had to do what the legislature tried to do, reduce the PFD to its historical average so we didn’t overdraw the Permanent fund. 

Every legislature and governor since have followed that Permanent Fund structured draw formula to fund 70% of government services. By working with the legislature in the passage of our bill, when I left office, we had reduced a $4 billion deficit to $1 billion. We focused our decisions on the next generation, not the next election.

However, since leaving office, there have been no additional steps taken toward developing a fiscal plan. Over the past 10 years, we have gone through nearly $20 billion in savings, the price of oil has dropped 30% since June and the Permanent Fund’s balance has decreased over $10 billion so far this year. When Governor Dunleavy was pushed during a radio interview to explain his fiscal plan, his response was that he would continue to call the legislature into special sessions to give them more time to come up with a plan. That isn’t leadership.

Governor Dunleavy just signed the largest budget in state history. Even with that massive budget, the Alaska Marine Highway and education continue to be victimized by this administration’s priorities. It’s past time for some truly Alaskan common-sense leadership.

So as I watched from the stands at the Alaska Airlines Center in 2019, the Ketchikan Kings win the state high school basketball championship, I had to agree with Governor Hickel, there really is something pretty special about Ketchikan.

I ask for you to rank Walker Drygas #1 on November 8, as the only ticket that can beat Mike Dunleavy.