Alaska editorial: A look at Palin's first six months

Posted: Friday, June 22, 2007

Gov. Sarah Palin has been in office for a little over six months.

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She's still learning.

The governor, in a half-hour visit to the Daily News-Miner earlier this month, came across as the young statewide leader that she is but also appeared to have a growing base of knowledge about the issues, including some large ones, that she is having to deal with.

That's encouraging to see, given that her relative lack of statewide experience was a concern for some people in the 2006 campaign. It's encouraging, too, given the complaints during the campaign that she took a safe course and spoke mostly in thematic generalities rather in policy specifics.

Gov. Palin is going to have to grow a lot more than she already has, however, in the coming year. The public honeymoon is sure to fade, and the favorable ratings she is now enjoying are sure to drop off. The political alliances she has enjoyed this year may prove to be fleeting as their usefulness to this or that legislator runs out. The going could be a little rougher, especially after the 2008 legislative election that will bring some new members to the House and Senate.

The real test of leadership for Gov. Palin will come when she encounters some headwind in the Legislature and some disagreement from the public. She is, for example, about to veto some items from the capital budget.

Those vetoes, if they are to make a dent in state spending that the she says has grown to an unacceptable level, will probably rile a number of groups and communities that had stood to gain. She will need to make the people in those groups and communities not only understand what she is doing but also agree with it.

That's not an easy task.

Longer term, Alaska will likely face some major budget choices, choices not just of spending but of where we are going to get our money. The hoped-for North Slope natural gas pipeline - and the revenue that it will bring - is still being hoped for, although the Legislature did pass the governor's Alaska Gasline Inducement Act.

Whether AGIA, the framework that Gov. Palin says will lead to construction of a pipeline and financial stability for the state, will work as advertised won't be known for quite a while.

She's had a busy six months, but some big issues remain, meaning that Gov. Palin will need to grow into the job at an accelerated pace.

Alaskans should hope that she does.

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