Press Release: 17-008
JUNEAU – Governor Bill Walker delivered his third State of the State address this evening, urging members of the 30th Alaska State Legislature to pass a plan this session to fix Alaska’s fiscal crisis.
“State revenues are down more than 80 percent from four years ago. While we have cut the budget 44 percent, we still face a $3 billion fiscal gap,” said Governor Walker. “Denial doesn’t make the problem go away, and hope doesn’t pay the bills. We need to pass a plan this year to stabilize our fiscal future.”
In his speech, Governor Walker reiterated his support for a sustainable fiscal plan that includes spending cuts, use of Permanent Fund earnings and a broad-based tax to balance the state’s budget. While the administration will continue to eliminate wasteful spending, the Governor noted major cuts the state has already made.
“By the end of this year, we will have closed seven trooper posts; six public health centers; three maintenance stations; one correctional facility; two youth detention facilities; multiple job centers; and a fire training facility,” Governor Walker said. “We can’t keep cutting the budget and expect to improve our situation. Alaskans demand – and deserve – better.”
In addition to addressing the state’s fiscal challenges, Governor Walker highlighted some of the opportunities for advancement and reform in state government. Specifically, the Governor outlined his plans for addressing education reform and combatting Alaska’s opioid epidemic during his speech.
Beginning next month, the public will be invited to provide input on five priorities identified by the State Board of Education to improve Alaska’s public school system. Those priorities include improving student learning; ensuring excellent educators; modernizing our education system; inspiring tribal and community ownership; and promoting safety and well-being. After an extensive public process, the State Board of Education will provide final recommendations to the Governor in December 2017.
To address the state’s growing opioid epidemic, Governor Walker offered five steps the state can take going forward:
– Limit the amount of opioids a doctor can prescribe, with some exceptions;
– Strengthen the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to prevent patients from pill-shopping and identify providers who are overprescribing opioids;
– Give regulatory authority to classify illicit opioids as controlled substances as they emerge;
– Restrict the transport of illegal opioids and heroin into rural communities with improved screening and enforcement measures;
– And require licensed healthcare providers to complete opioid addiction education as part of their continuing education requirements.
“The unfolding tragedy of our state’s heroin epidemic is ruining the lives of too many Alaskans,” Governor Walker said. “This proposal is based on the good work of the Alaska Opioid Task Force. I will work with lawmakers, the medical community, and the public to refine this plan and put an end to the needless suffering wrought by opioids and heroin. It cannot wait.”
Governor Walker concluded his speech by sharing his vision for Alaska and encouraging lawmakers to step forward and help build a strong future for the state. The Governor noted that while our challenges are many, the rewards are even greater.
“In the face of crisis, our job as elected officials is to not play it safe. We must find the courage and grit to run towards the threat and face it head on. Together we can move Alaska forward,” Governor Walker said.