Bill Walker - Non-affliliated
Officer: Governor (Other candidates: Sean Parnell)
1. Why are you running for office?
I am running to ensure that Alaska regains control of our resources and our future without bowing to party or special interests. Alaska's current leadership is steering us on the wrong course both in terms of failing to have a vision for growing our economy, and reckless spending of our savings. I want my grandchildren to have the same opportunity in Alaska as I did.
2. Describe three ways in which your administration would try to grow and diversify Alaska's economy.
• The State needs to ensure completion of a large volume gas line to tidewater at Cook Inlet for shipment of LNG to Asia. No company should be able to halt progress while demanding concessions from the state.
• Promote and, in specific cases, provide incentives for value-added industries, such as resource processing, manufacturing and services.
• Build up Alaska's role as the nation's Arctic state, with responsible resource development, shipping centers and a strong Coast Guard presence.
3. How would you create a sustainable budget, one that doesn't borrow annually from the state's savings to meet shortfalls?
Responsible spending, not political spending, and developing additional revenues through oil exploration and gas pipeline development are key elements of the answer.
4. What amount of state spending do you believe is sustainable? If cuts need to be made, where should most of the money come from, the operations budget or the capital budget?
My target for a sustainable budget is about $5.2 billion. However the budget is dependent on fluctuating oil revenues and costs that cannot be estimated with precision. Thus the target sustainable budget will change over time.
We will cut where there is waste, duplication and niceties we cannot afford. Initially, some of the cuts would come in the capital budget, which has ballooned in recent years. This includes for unrealistic infrastructure studies like for the small diameter pipeline.
5. What additional steps can the state take to promote construction of a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope?
Take control of development process and timeline. Gov. Parnell has put the leaseholders in the driver's seat. After 30 years of refusing to develop North Slope gas, while they advance competing projects around the world, that is unacceptable and will not succeed.
I intend to aggressively continue the project work to Kenai. I am not going to reinvent the wheel. We've started over often (El Paso, Foot Hills, YPC, AGIA and Denali), and we can no longer afford to do so.
6. The voters have chosen Senate Bill 21 or the More Alaska Production Act to generate most of the state's tax revenues. How will you determine whether this tax structure is effective? Do you think any changes should be made to the law in the upcoming legislative session?
I do not intend to offer changes to SB21. However, Alaska voters trusted SB21 proponents that promised it would result in a halt in the decline of oil production ,increased jobs and investment on the North Slope remaining flat or increasing and that it would be relatively revenue neutral as compared to ACES. I will begin to monitor North Slope activity immediately to ensure those promises are kept and make that information available to the public. It is my hope those promises are kept.
7. The state's savings is being depleted. How low should the savings go before you begin to seriously discuss implementing a widespread tax, such as as a sales or income tax, or reducing Permanent Fund Dividend checks to help pay for services?
I have no intention to implement a statewide tax or paying for state government by reducing Permanent Fund dividend checks. If we properly develop our natural resources and put in place a sustainable budget that should not be necessary.
8. What are your specific plans to address the serious problems of leadership, morale and accountability within the Alaska National Guard?
We have to change a culture that condones sexual abuse in the Guard. There are five steps I will take: (1) establish penalties for those who violate victims' confidentiality; (2) establish a reporting structure outside the chain of command (3) hold members of the chain of command accountable; (4) forward all findings to APD and state troopers for prosecution as appropriate; and (5) appoint a special prosecutor to ensure accountability.
9. What are Alaska's three biggest education challenges? What is your plan to address each of them?
1. Sustainable, predictable, adequate funding. Advocate for forward funding that at least keeps pace with inflation. Review other sustainable sources of revenue.
2. Attracting and supporting excellent educators at all levels. Respect districts' negotiated contracts; support incentives to attract educators to rural Alaska; support excellent professional development through UA.
3. Developing strong career and technical education programs within mainstream education.
10. What are your suggestions to increase accountability of public schools?
Maintain strong teacher standards and evaluation; continue to monitor graduation rates and skills measurement; support innovative efforts (such as technology and early childhood initiatives) that promote literacy allow individualized learning (and track those results).
11. Would you support a constitutional amendment that would allow public funds to be spent on private or religious K-12 education? If such an amendment were to pass, would you then support voucher or some similar grant to parents of state funds that they could spend on private or religious education for their children?
Resources for public education are already under stress. Because of the deficit spending course our state is now embarked upon, the competition for these resources will only increase. For that reason, I oppose a constitutional amendment diverting public funds away from public education. We can't afford it all.
12. What are your plans for improving the quality of education offered through the University of Alaska system?
Appoint regents who set high standards for the system. Set specific targets and strategic funding to achieve world-class excellence in notable programs: climate research, petroleum industry, Arctic studies, fisheries, rural and indigenous education practice. Support with a robust recruitment program. Assure that properties and well-subscribed programs are well-maintained. Better utilize our university by incorporating their work and capabilities into our own economic development vision.
13. Do you support or oppose expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act? Explain.
I support expanding Medicaid. We achieve three objectives by doing so. First, we cover nearly 40,000 Alaskans who have little or no coverage. Second, we expand job growth in the health care field in Alaska (such an expansion would create an additional 4,000 jobs in Alaska by 2020). Third, we counter the impacts that uncovered Alaskans have on the insurance premiums of other Alaskans who must underwrite the costs of hospital and other medical care to the uninsured.
14. Are you confident that the current level of state environmental regulation and oversight of offshore oil and gas drilling and shipping is adequate to prevent a major spill in Alaska? If not, where are we deficient and what will you propose to achieve adequate protection?
After the Exxon Valdez spill, Alaska enacted the best oil spill laws in the country. We can meet challenges posed by offshore and Arctic drilling by requiring swifter spill response times and more spill equipment in place. We can require regular equipment updates to insure that the best available spill technology is always available. I also strongly support the regional citizen advisory council system and will advocate for such a model in Arctic development.
15. What is your assessment of Alaska's transportation system? What, if anything, would you change?
Alaska's geography and its vastness require capabilities that few, if any, states are faced with. Our transportation infrastructure consists of roads and highways, trains, a statewide airport system and the marine highway system. Our challenge is to be able to maintain this integrated system in light of new demands for service amid reduced federal support. Rail should be expanded so long as it is tied to economic development.
16. The Legislature has approved the use of state funds for four mega-projects: the Knik Arm Crossing, the Susitna-Watana dam and two gas line projects. Can the state afford all four, or should one or more be dropped? If so, which?
The state cannot afford all four projects. I support the major gas line project. I will eliminate further funding for the small-volume gas line. We need to examine all other mega-projects, including those listed here. We have to close the gap between revenues and expenditures and prioritize based on the relative benefits each confers on Alaska and the opportunity costs of choosing one project over others. Long-term stable power is key to Alaska's viability, possibly from hydro.
17. State your position on abortion. When should it be allowed, and when should government pay for it? Do you anticipate pushing any legislation, policies or budget proposals that would change the status quo in Alaska?
I hold a deep conviction in the sanctity of life and am thus pro-life. As governor, I will place my hand on the Bible and swear to uphold the laws of the land. In reproductive matters, those laws grant a woman's right to choose. I will implement Medicaid expansion, including Denali KidCare, in order to protect women and children. By expanding the availability of contraception, the abortion rate should also diminish.
18. Should the state subsidy program for films and reality television programs continue? Explain.
I like the concept of the film credit program due to opportunity for local jobs for our Alaska youth, but we need to continue to examine it to ensure Alaska is getting a good return on this investment.
19. When is it appropriate to appoint a non-Alaskan to a state board or commission?
I believe that appointments of non-Alaskans to governing bodies here in Alaska should not occur.
20. Are you satisfied with the process by which judges are selected and appointed in Alaska? Explain.
I believe that the selection of judges should be on the basis of merit. While any system has its flaws, ours has served our state well. Under it, a judicial council, made up of lay people and lawyers, screen applicants, two or more of whose names are submitted to the governor for selection. Alaska enjoys the reputation as having the finest state judiciary in the nation.
21. Taxation on oil and gas production in Alaska is _____ (Generally higher than it should be / About right / Generally lower than it should be / Other):
I believe, if the promises made to by proponents of SB21 turn out to be true (that ACES and MAPA are relatively revenue neutral), we have about the right balance on oil taxation. However, our failure to develop a natural gas pipeline has meant one of our largest economic resources has remained stranded and thus untapped revenues to Alaska. I intend to correct that. Additionally, we need to work diligently with Congress to ensure revenue sharing of federal royalties for offshore production (although not a tax, it will be a key source of revenue in the coming decades).
22. Taxation on other industries in Alaska is _____ (Generally higher than it should be / About right / Generally lower than it should be / Other):
23. Taxation on individual citizens in Alaska is _____ (Generally higher than it should be / About right / Generally lower than it should be / Other:
24. The number of Alaska State Troopers and Village Public Safety Officers is _____ (More than necessary / About right / Less than necessary):
Less than necessary
25. If you answered more or less, what specific steps would you take to achieve the right level?
I support the Alaska Rural Justice Commission's call for the improvement and expansion of housing for police and VPSO's, increased availability of appropriate intra-community transportation, more enforcement officers and holding facilities in rural Alaska, as well as expanded public safety training to assume greater responsibilities. Given the national Indian Law & Order Commission's 2013 findings, I believe that many of these improvements can be achieved with federal support.
Current employer: Walker & Richards LLC 1994
• Attorney/Owner: Walker Richards LLC law firm – 1995 to present. The firm is a general practice with emphasis in oil and gas and municipal law. Bill represents many Alaskan municipalities as well as serving as general counsel to the Alaska Gasline Port Authority.
• Attorney: Hughes, Thorsness, Gantz, Powell, and Brundin: 1983-95; Chairman, Municipal Law Department and; served as one of the managing partners for law firm of 50+ attorneys
• Owner: Bill Walker Construction Co., Valdez – 1975-80
• Trans-Alaska Pipeline construction worker and member of Alaska Laborers', Carpenters' and Teamsters' Unions – 1970-74
• Commercial fisherman (Prince William Sound) – 1969
Previous public offices held: City Council, City of Valdez 1978 to 1980; Mayor, City of Valdez 1979 to 1980.
Previous unsuccessful runs for office: Governor in 2010
Postsecondary education: B.S. degree (1973) in Business Administration from Lewis and Clark College, Portland ; J.D. (1983) University of Puget Sound School of Law (now Seattle University) University of Puget Sound School of Law (JD)
Military service: None
Spouse's name: Donna Walker
Children: Lindsay, Tessa, Adam, Jordan
Alaska Dispatch News asked each candidate in the major races in Alaska this year to answer a series of written issue questions. Responses were limited to 500 characters.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported the candidate's answer to question 23 as "Generally lower than it should be." The article has been updated to reflect the accurate response.