When Congress called Alaska unfit to join the Union, Alaskans banded together to fight for statehood. Not as Republicans, not as Democrats but as Alaskans. We united again as Alaskans to rebuild after the 1964 earthquake and the 1967 Fairbanks flood. Alaska is again in a crisis that warrants checking our party initials at the door and uniting to correct the ill-fated course we are on.
This crisis is not as tangible as a historic battle or natural disaster. It is more insidious and often disguised behind ribbon-cuttings, picnics, bill-signings, photo-ops and state funded public relations campaigns. But undeniably, we are in the death grip of a leadership void where critical decisions are made based on lock-step allegiance to party platforms and special interests even when they do not square with Alaska's best interests.
When Gov. Parnell makes a partisan decision to reject Medicaid expansion to help 43,000 Alaskans secure health care coverage paid for by Alaskans' federal tax dollars that will now subsidize other states, we are in a leadership crisis. In rejecting the expansion, Parnell also rejected 4,000 additional Alaskan jobs and $1.2 billion in labor income over the next six years while increasing premium costs to insured Alaskans to cover the uninsured. Now Alaskans will pay twice, in higher taxes and higher premiums. Claiming there was no guarantee of continued federal funding, rather than condition acceptance, he issued a wholesale rejection.
When our governor transfers billions of tax dollars to Exxon, BP and ConocoPhillips without reciprocal guarantees (SB21) hoping they will abide by lease terms already requiring them to explore and drill more wells, thereby thrusting Alaska into deficit spending, we are in a leadership crisis.
Parnell requires no guarantees when money is transferred from Alaskans, only when money is to be transferred to Alaskans.
When Alaskans, in the most energy-rich state in the union, close businesses and relocate families, and Fairbanks/North Pole communities fight military base closure due, in part, to astronomical energy costs and air quality issues, we are in a leadership crisis.
When the exclusive AGIA license granted to TransCanada and Exxon precludes us from developing a world-class gas line providing generational jobs, cheap energy for Alaskans and billions of dollars in new state revenue, we are in a leadership crisis. That crisis is exacerbated when our governor grants generous extensions to TransCanada/Exxon to continue feasibility studies, on the state's dime, despite failure to meet key benchmarks for front-end engineering and design work.
Meanwhile they advance their own competing projects around the world.
When our governor declines to meet, in Juneau, with Japanese representatives desperate to buy Alaska's gas following the 2011 Fukashima earthquake -- causing Japan to move on and invest billions in liquified natural gas projects in British Columbia and the U.S. Gulf Coast -- we are in a leadership crisis. That crisis is exacerbated when in 2013 another Japanese conglomerate invests millions to study an Alaska gas line, concluding a large-volume line is feasible and highly profitable. Parnell's team fails to meaningfully engage, concluding only a small project is allowed under the exclusive AGIA license.
This leadership void has propelled me to run as an independent, nonpartisan candidate for governor.
While I am a Republican, my first allegiance is to Alaska. Decisions nationally, and in Juneau, are increasingly being made along party lines. While partisan battles rage, Alaskans suffer.
As a governor not beholden to party dictates, I will make Alaska First decisions. I will assemble the best team of Alaskans to serve you. I will be a governor who shows up and is accountable for the tough, independent decisions I will make.
Alaska needs a lion for governor, not a lamb, a governor who leads and manages the issues Alaskans face, not a career politician with sights fixed on the next political position. Governor of Alaska is the only seat I intend to ever seek. I seek it now as one who will advance and fiercely defend the state and the people I love, in order to secure the future we all deserve.
Bill Walker is a lifelong Alaskan, businessman, owner of a law firm practicing primarily municipal and oil and gas law and an independent candidate for governor. He lives in Anchorage.
By BILL WALKER