Who We Are
Bill Walker served as Alaska’s 11th Governor (2014-2018) as an Independent and Heidi Drygas served as Alaska’s Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development during Governor Walker’s term.
Bill, a former Republican, and Heidi, a former Democrat, are running as lifelong Alaskans without party labels. The Walker/Drygas team will work for all Alaskans and with leaders across the political spectrum. We are everyday Alaskans who are willing to work hard to do what’s best for Alaska.
A Strong Economy
Alaskans want to feel confident in our future. We want to know there will be a good quality of life for our children and our children’s children, that they will have good jobs and opportunities to enjoy the lands and activities that define our great state.
But in recent years more people are moving out than moving in, and a sense of uncertainty has many Alaskans nervous. We are challenged by high costs, especially for energy and health care; a shortage of housing and child care; and a lack of economic diversification. Most of all, we are stymied by seesawing state revenue – which means unpredictable impacts on local taxes, education funding, school debt reimbursement, ferry schedules and more.
Fortunately, we have the tools to rebuild our economy. We have abundant natural resources; and we have rich and varied resources valued by the economy of the future – such as clean air, clean water, and renewable energy resources. And we have an $80 billion nest egg: our Permanent Fund, which can help bring the fiscal stability we need to thrive.
A thriving economy will create jobs, help businesses grow and prosper, and help keep more young Alaskans here in our state and stop the hemorrhaging of folks leaving in search of better opportunities elsewhere.
Alaska has hitched itself to a rollercoaster ride of rising and falling oil prices. This makes it hard to plan. Sometimes promises are broken – the state went back on its promise to repay school construction debt, for example, forcing unanticipated costs onto local communities. Sudden windfalls can be problematic too: projects get funded without proper vetting, or programs are launched that can’t be sustained.
Families and businesses don’t thrive on this kind of budget yo-yo, and neither does Alaska. Fiscal planning is key to providing stability, and stability is key to strength. A solid fiscal footing will provide the predictability we need to hire and keep good teachers, to retain and attract qualified police officers, and to improve and maintain our roads and bridges and ferry system.
As governor, Bill consistently fought for a stable fiscal plan. With oil no longer paying the bills, we need to talk honestly and openly about the smartest way to pay for the services Alaskans deserve and want.
Over the past decade, the state has spent down $20 billion in savings while ducking the hard conversations. As governor, Bill proposed multiple options to bring long-term fiscal stability. No option is pain-free, but we believe we can and must find a way to ensure we can pay for the schools, public safety, infrastructure, and other services that enable our families, communities, and businesses to thrive. Heidi and Bill have demonstrated that we will be honest with Alaskans, we are open to all ideas, and we are willing to do the hard work needed to set Alaska on a course for stability and strength.
In Bill’s first term in office, he successfully reduced Alaska’s financial shortfall by 75% despite historically low oil prices. There is more work to do. Alaska needs a stable fiscal plan developed with common sense, nonpartisan, practical solutions. Our families, our communities, and our businesses need predictability and stability in our budget in order to plan, invest, and thrive.
People are the foundation of any economy. It’s time Alaska invests in our human capital again. Our schools need budgets that parents and educators can count on. It is long past time we made salaries and benefits for our educators competitive, which will curb the significant outmigration of teachers fleeing the state for better opportunities out of state. A great education for our children, pre-K through graduation, is the greatest resource development investment we can make.
There are many reasons to make great schools a priority. Military members are increasingly seeking quality schools when they evaluate transfer opportunities. Strong schools build community connections. And of course, good schools prepare our children to solve problems, power our workforce, and build a better future for us all. Investing in education pays off.
University of Alaska
The University of Alaska is the crown jewel of Alaska’s economy. Our university system is a significant economic engine for our state. Not only does it provide an excellent academic opportunity to students, but it brings students to Alaska, many of whom stay in Alaska and become valuable contributors to our state. Additionally, the University brings in millions of federal dollars each year through world-class research. Our university is a recognized leader in Arctic studies. It must be properly funded and supported to reach its full potential.
Alaska Marine Highway System
Our state ferry system is a critical piece of the state’s infrastructure, and a diamond in the rough. The sheer beauty the “blue canoes” pass through every day is second to none, worldwide. We need to rebuild the AMHS to what it once was—a world-class system meeting the needs of Alaskans and visitors alike. We need the equivalent of Europe’s Eurail pass for the AMHS, so passengers can hop on and hop off for a stay in various stunning Alaska coastal communities where it docks. We need to bring back the amenities— such as local entertainment and the naturalist program — that made travel on the AMHS so special. Under my administration, we initiated the AMHS Reform Project, a broad public process aimed at making our ferry system more sustainable and durable for the long term. The top recommendation was to reduce the ferry system’s entanglement in the political process so managers can make longer-term plans and better business decisions. We support this effort and will implement Rep. Louise Stutes’ bill as an important step in bringing greater independence and sustainability to our ferry system.
There is nothing more important to parents than high-quality and affordable child care. Child care is also critical infrastructure for our economy: A recent US Chamber of Commerce study estimated that Alaska loses $165 million each year as a result of insufficient child care. Employers know this, and the pandemic underscored the link between availability of child care and availability of a workforce.
We will propose financial incentives to employers to help them ensure employees have access to affordable childcare, and we will work with policy experts to find solutions that meet the needs of Alaska’s families.
We hear the frustration in Alaska around the politicization of women’s reproductive rights, so we want to take a moment to say we’re listening and to lay out more specifics. You might know that Bill, personally, is pro-life and Heidi is pro-choice. We are a unity ticket. We are running to rebuild Alaska, not to make changes on divisive social issues. What matters more than our personal views is how we will actually govern on this issue.
· Work to make 12 months of birth control available at a time, rather than time-limited prescriptions.
· Work to continue and expand family planning and healthcare services so that women can plan their pregnancies.
· Continue to support the expansion of Alaskans’ access to healthcare—as we did when Bill expanded Medicaid in 2015—so women and families can plan their own reproductive decisions. Medicaid expansion gave 70,000 Alaskans access to federally funded healthcare services which improved outcomes and reduced unplanned pregnancies.
· Commit to expanding access to child-care and Pre-K in order to meet 100% of the need. We can’t just talk about valuing children; we’ve got to show it in how we support families.
· Focus on expanding resources for foster care and adoption services.
· Defend a woman’s right to make her own reproductive decisions. We will work to ensure the status quo of women’s existing reproductive rights including:
· Opposing a constitutional convention in Alaska.
· Opposing and, if necessary, vetoing any bills that abridge these rights from what they are today.
· Opposing any constitutional amendment that would degrade the constitutional right to privacy.
We understand this is a critically important, and deeply personal issue to many Alaskans. We understand that our positions will not be perfect for everyone. However, we ask that you consider the balance in our ticket, our dedication to upholding the constitution and our commitment to the status quo of women’s rights in Alaska, and that our ticket is fundamentally committed to protecting families and creating opportunities for upward mobility. We’ve spoken on this issue before in a prior op-ed which you can find here.
Our ticket is the only one that can defeat Dunleavy and prevent four more years of attacks on all Alaskans’ rights. Whether you believe our views perfectly align with your own, we are committed to hearing from you and will not shy away from difficult, but necessary discussions on this issue.
As oil flowing in the pipeline from the North Slope continues to decline, the Permanent Fund has become Alaska’s new golden goose. At more than $80 billion today, we are only about $20 billion from being able to live off the earnings of the Fund in perpetuity. Said another way, we have the potential to become the first and only state to be tax-free with 100% of our government services funded from Permanent Fund earnings, with enough funding for a capital budget AND a sustainable PFD each year. With wise stewardship of our financial resources, and working collaboratively with the legislature, we will grow the fund to support this and future generations of Alaskans.
Permanent Fund Dividend
The dividend is a critical piece of Alaska’s economic fabric and a unique Alaskan program. Alaskans use it to offset the high cost of living, buy fuel for homes and gas for snow machines and boats for subsistence use, and pay for training and education. The PFD must be something Alaskans can rely on, and it must be predictable and sustainable. We will work with the legislature to develop a durable, sustainable, and fair dividend formula for Alaska’s future.
Alaska is at ground zero in the battle against climate change. We will re-establish the Climate Change Action Leadership Team, whose work was halted by the current administration, and work to implement the action plan created by the team to combat climate change.
Climate change also brings opportunities for Alaska due to the magnitude of stored carbon in our forests and tundra. Our administration will look to innovative ways for the state to benefit economically while contributing meaningfully to global efforts to stem climate change.
Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill
Thanks to the hard work of Senator Lisa Murkowski and support from Senator Dan Sullivan and the late Congressman Don Young, Alaska has a transformational opportunity to invest billions of dollars to improve infrastructure across Alaska. Eligibility for many of the funds requires action on the state’s part. Our administration will fight for every dollar we can to improve Alaska— from ports to ferries to airports to roads to energy systems. The opportunity to invest in desperately needed improvements, particularly in rural Alaska, cannot be overstated. We must not let this once-in-a-lifetime chance pass us by because of the dictates of partisan politics.
Respect for Alaskans means respecting all families, and the fabric of our communities is stronger when we support and uphold the rights of our LGBTQIA+ neighbors, coworkers, and friends.
· No one should fear discrimination for their loved ones under the law, and our administration will work to protect the rights of all Alaskans, including LGBTQIA+ Alaskans. Our administration supports a statewide nondiscrimination bill that protects LGBTQIA+ Alaskans.
· Our administration supports legislation addressing hate crimes. We will work to ensure that hate crimes targeting LGBTQIA+ Alaskans will face the full measure of justice.
· Our administration will honor the rights of LGBTQIA+ Alaskans, which includes the right to marry and the right to live free from discrimination.
· Our administration will always be vigilant and tireless in defending the privacy and security of Alaskans. Our Constitution requires nothing less.
Alaska always has been and will continue to be a resource state. It is why we were purchased from Russia. Our constitution includes an obligation to develop our resources for the “maximum benefit of Alaskans.” To us that means the resource extraction jobs should go to Alaska residents. That means we don’t create financial incentives where they are not needed. That means our resources do not get stranded because of access disputes by producers. That means we have the lowest cost of energy in the nation, not the highest. That means we start making products in Alaska rather than paying a premium to get those same products shipped to us.
And while Alaska is known for conventional natural resources, we are also rich in resources that have traditionally been undervalued. We have abundant clean water, clean air, unobstructed salmon streams, and renewable resource potential – and all of these resources are becoming increasingly valuable as the world recognizes they are not infinite. With broad vision and innovative thinking, Alaska has the resources to lead and thrive in the economy of the future.
While we are pro-development and pro-jobs for Alaskans, we oppose the Pebble Mine. We agree with the thousands of Alaskans who believe Pebble is the wrong mine in the wrong place.
Let’s be clear: bycatch is a waste of quality fish, and the current scale of this waste is unacceptable. Alaskans across the state feel the very real impacts of salmon, halibut, crab, and herring bycatch – subsistence, commercial, personal use, and sport harvesters are all being harmed. While it is technically correct that a majority of current major bycatch concerns stem from federally managed fisheries, the State of Alaska can and should be proactive and aggressive in demanding immediate solutions.
There are both short and long-term actions that should be taken. Our administration will appoint officials who are committed to bycatch solutions, particularly at the Department of Fish and Game. Additionally, we commit to an open and transparent process to appoint bycatch-focused Alaska members of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, where many of the bycatch allocation decisions are made.
Long term, we will pursue policies that encourage full utilization of all target-fish species. We will bring together stakeholders and state and federal managers, and partner with Congress to identify and implement policies that will truly value one of our most precious resources here in Alaska – our fish. Our fisheries are integral to the fabric of our families, our communities, our culture. Subsistence and our economy, and we must zealously safeguard the health of these invaluable resources.
Coastal Zone Management (CZM)
It is time to bring back the Coastal Zone Management concept whereby local communities and stakeholders are apprised of a resource development project in their region before millions of dollars have been invested and final decisions have been made. The CZM process facilitates community discussion and engenders trust and transparency. We believe this process helps make projects better by eliminating needless conflict and mistrust and providing a structured process for communication and collaborative decision-making.
Small businesses provide jobs, generate revenue, and bring creativity and life to our communities. The best thing Alaska could do for the business community is to have a fiscal plan. The state’s lack of a long-term plan for budget stability produces uncertainty throughout the business community. For example, businesses don’t know when they might face local tax increases due to sudden cuts in state support, or when their customer base may be lost due to loss of ferry service or road maintenance.
There are other ways we can help small businesses. Low-cost energy is one of the most important. Affordable health insurance and a strong child care system are other critical supports for small businesses. We value small businesses, and our administration will commit to putting these building blocks into place.
There is no prosperity without peace, and there is no peace if Alaskans do not feel safe in our homes and communities. We must close the gap between urban and rural public safety. We will work through the Governors Tribal Advisory Council that we established in 2015 to find a long-overdue solution to this injustice. We cannot rest until all Alaskans can feel safe in their communities.
In our urban and rural communities, Alaska leads the nation in several disturbing metrics including sexual violence. What we are doing has not been working. In addition to a robust law enforcement and justice system, we need to take a hard look at the root causes of violence and crime, and seek to heal the trauma, mental health, and addiction problems driving much of the crime in our homes and on our streets. We need a holistic approach that recognizes the reality that many victims become perpetrators – we must work to interrupt the cycle of violence.
We oppose the efforts to pass a constitutional convention in November. The effort to shred our constitution through a convention presents great dangers to Alaska. So much of what we have today is a result of our one-of-a-kind constitution, a model for much of the country and it cannot be dismantled for partisan purposes.
As we have traveled across our great state these past many months, there is one common message we have heard loud and clear: literally every community in Alaska is suffering from a lack of affordable housing. Workers are struggling to find housing for their families, employers in turn are suffering from a lack of available workers, and our economy is taking a hit. All because of a severe lack of affordable housing. We will implement an action plan to address this crisis starting on day one of our administration.