Parnell: Alaska prospers despite national economic woes

Posted: Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Alaska State Chamber of Commerce's fall conference and trade show got into full bloom Tuesday morning when Gov. Sean Parnell delivered the welcoming address. The governor saw the conference's theme of "Alaska + Business = Economy, Back to the Basics" as a parallel to what he said his administration is working toward.

Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

"We do tend to go back to our constitutional priorities," he said, and elaborated that how the state provides for those priorities is intertwined with it's economy.

Parnell said one only has to look at neighboring states to see Alaska has maintained a high quality economy. "We've got it good," he said.

He noted that other states have huge budget gaps plus taxes and fees of more than 24 billion. He said Alaska has lessened its tax burden.

He said others' high fees come from numerous taxes on things like nursing homes, vaccines, bed taxes and wind-generated electricity. He also said they face increased permit fees for a number of sources that can drive economies down.

"Alaska's taken a different course," he said. "We'll be competitive and bring economy here."

Parnell cited tourism as a big source of such economy to work on. He said a challenge facing Alaska was that it battled a reputation in recent years for fewer efforts in tourism and high head taxes. He said his administration is working to change that. He said once that is done "dollars will follow."

"Trade journals have completely reversed their view," he said, adding that cruise numbers have also gone up.

Parnell said the state needs to replicate this experience across more industry sectors to increase economic growth across the board. He cited improvements for commercial fisherman and tax incentives for processors as more examples.

Parnell also addressed the participants on Alaska's oil and gas industry, saying 85 percent of the state's revenue is dependent on this. He favors a private sector gas line, which he said is in phases of negotiation.

When asked about sharing resources between urban and rural areas for the gas line, he responded the individual cities and communities should come up with their own plans and investments to feed into the gas line. He said this is because an inventory taken by the Alaska Energy Authority deemed it to not be economically viable to feed the gas line into rural areas.

On energy, he also said the Legislature has set a policy to help Alaska work on deriving 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.

Other "back to basics" he mentioned of his administration were the Alaska Performance Scholarship, which will be available in 2012, and strides in the Roads to Resources program. He said roads for mining projects are now in the works.

He explained his administration has also championed major public safety initiatives including tougher offenses for offenders and shelters for violence and sexual abuse victims. He said his administration has partnered with 18 communities for the Choose Respect campaign to end violent and sexual assaults.

"Most of all we're focused on prevention," he said.

• Contact Jonathan Grass at 523-2276 or at jonathan.grass@juneauempire.com.



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