My turn: Time for Palin to fill in the blanks

Posted: Monday, October 06, 2008

It's hard to imagine there is anything missing from the national news coverage of Gov. Sarah Palin's vice presidential candidacy on the Republican ticket. We've heard about dead moose, mooseburgers, moose hunting tickets, snowmachines, Iron Dogs, hairstyles, stylish shoes and stylish eyeglasses, speaking style, management style, personnel mismanagement, personal religious beliefs and personal choices.

We've even been reminded that far western Alaska is close to far eastern Russia. Funny how that works when the world is circular.

But we've heard little of the real issues that will affect real people's lives in the years ahead, such as the minimum wage, school drop-out rates, homelessness, road repairs, community health clinics and day care services.

We haven't heard much about those issues - especially how Gov. Palin dealt with them in Alaska - because she did not pay much attention to those issues during her first two legislative sessions and budget cycles as governor. It's a blank page, and it's hard for national reporters to write stories about a blank piece of paper.

Sure, the governor and legislators approved more state funding for schools, but does the governor have a plan, even a notion of what really should or could be done to reduce Alaska's embarrassingly high drop-out rate?

Alaska's minimum wage will fall below the federal minimum wage next summer, and already is below the minimum wage in several states. Legislation to boost Alaska's minimum wage failed to win legislative approval or the governor's support this past session. Where does the governor stand on the minimum wage? Members of Congress and other governors have had to state their position, so how about Gov. Palin.

The governor takes credit for winning legislative approval to suspend Alaska's state tax on motor fuel this year. Her bill saves motorists eight cents a gallon, or about 2 percent. Great politics, small dollars but popular. But what about a real plan to repair state highways and roads in communities statewide? If Alaska is not going to ask for congressional appropriations to fix its roads, and if the state is not going to tax Alaskans to fix the roads, just how do we fix the roads on a consistent basis?

And how are the other 49 states to pay for road work? Does Gov. Palin support a suspension of the federal motor fuel tax, too?

Are others as embarrassed as I that a state as rich as Alaska has such problems with homelessness in our urban centers, neighborhood health clinics unable to keep up with demand from uninsured patients, and parents who want to work but cannot find affordable day care services?

The state reports there are almost 32,000 Alaska children under 6 years old who need child care while their parents work. There are almost 10,000 children 4 years old and younger who are living below the federal poverty level. Yet the state contributes just a few million dollars a year for child care assistance - out of billions of dollars in revenues.

The governor's office spent more time this past session on tax credits for movie production in Alaska than on child care assistance.

Yes, Gov. Palin has done some good for Alaska. But what does she plan to do tomorrow, assuming she returns to work as governor? Or what will she do for the nation, if elected?

I believe Alaskans - and now Americans, by virtue of her vice presidential candidacy - deserve to hear from the governor on the real economic and social issues of the day such as education, working wages, homelessness, child care and medical care.

We already know that Russia is close to Alaska, as is Canada.

We already know that an Alaska natural gas pipeline is good; higher oil taxes are good for the state treasury; ethics are good; and good old boys are bad.

We already know that Sen. John McCain and Gov. Palin would be tough on terrorists, as if anyone would do differently.

Tell us something we don't know. Tell us something about making the state and the country a better place for everyone.

Give us something more than pep rallies.

Please fill in the blank pages of the governor's record.

• Larry Persily is a former Alaska journalist and former staffer in the governor's Washington, D.C., office.

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