Gov. Mike Dunleavy linked his hopes for building Alaska’s economy to the state’s political future in a speech on Thursday to the Alaska Chamber and Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce.
Dunleavy mentioned states where elected officials don’t want to develop natural resources. But he made it clear that Alaska’s elected officials and their political ideas will shape the state’s economy.
“If Alaska remains a state that wants to develop its resources in a responsible manner, our location is going to bode extremely well for us,” Dunleavy said.
The governor said the state is in a good position on multiple fronts. One is the warming Arctic, which could allow for shipping across the Arctic Ocean. Another is the demand for minerals that are used in electronics.
“And I think these rare earths, these minerals, graphite finds, etc., are going to be coming into play sooner than we think,” Dunleavy said.
And yet another front is the possibility the state could benefit from companies seeking to transport oil from Alberta to the Pacific Ocean, through a proposed rail link through Alaska.
One thing the governor did not address much during his speech was the state’s budget deficit. But he did say that the state service cuts he proposed last year could be the basis for further discussions.
Alaska Chamber President and CEO Kati Capozzi selected audience questions. She didn’t pose any questions about the embattled Alaska Marine Highway System, which has been a focus of residents’ and businesses’ concerns in coastal Alaska. But she did ask him a question about roads.
Dunleavy said he supports building roads in the state.
“Roads are cheaper,” he said. “They make you freer. You can come and go when you want.”
A reporter asked Dunleavy about ferry funding after the speech. The governor said a work group he recently announced would work on the ferry system’s future.
“We have a budget deficit,” Dunleavy said. “We don’t have billions of dollars to put into that, so we have to have discussions on how we’re going to make these services long term, so they’re there to rely on. And what are we going to do with the boats that have aged out, that need repairs.”
The work group’s recommendations are due in September.