What a great night to be in our capital city!
Thanks so much to Cathie Roemmich for inviting me to join you all for the Juneau Chamber’s Annual Dinner. I’m looking forward to hearing who will be honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award and who will be named Citizen of the Year!
This chamber and its members play a critical role in the State of Alaska’s success and in Juneau’s success. I want to thank all of you for what you do every day. It’s important that Juneau remain a good place to do business and you’re helping!
I’m excited to be here to share with you the common ground that we have – ensuring that Juneau continues to be a good place to do business. A robust private sector is a fundamental part of our free enterprise system.
It’s been a record year for tourism – a little more than one million visitors came on cruise ships and on independent trips to see Juneau’s breathtaking splendor.
Visitor satisfaction continues to rise proving that Juneau’s guest industry is making them very welcome.
Juneau’s Tourism Best Management Practices Program continues to improve the ways that visitors and residents celebrate Southeast Alaska together.
A number of other Alaska communities are following Juneau’s example in developing their own versions of this successful program – which encourages the tourism industry to abide by high professional standards.
We thank you for that!
Alaska has always been a state dedicated to, and defined by, resource development. We wouldn’t have a Juneau without gold – and we wouldn’t have a vibrant Alaskan economy without oil.
More and more we’re being challenged to balance the need for development with the need to protect our natural resources.
There’s been much concern about opening the Kensington Mine north of Juneau. I was able to tour the site and meet some of the employees last summer.
Our administration is very excited about the potential. The state has stood with Coeur during the permitting process and in the court challenges that ensued.
We have intervened on appeal, but the legal process will consume time and money with no certain outcome.
Meanwhile, I am heartened that some of the parties are sitting down together in Juneau to work on a compromise so that the mine can begin producing.
Alaska has stringent development laws and regulations. We will ensure protection of our fish and our environment so they will not be compromised or endangered by any development.
However, we will also ensure that all landowners have an opportunity to develop their land in a reasonable fashion, within the requirements of our environmental laws.
We must take a reasonable, responsible approach.
For many of our smallest communities, reasonable development is critical to ensure their futures. That’s especially true in Southeast Alaska.
A strong economy is the sign of a vibrant free enterprise system. Now, we can’t talk of economics without touching on oil and gas taxes.
I called a special Legislative session – underway here now - to address the current oil tax system.
It’s obvious we need a fair return and appropriate value for our very valuable non-renewable resources – especially today while it’s being sold at a premium – without this we will never have tax stability.
We need the stability Alaskans deserve and believe in and trust.
We have all heard that PPT is not performing as expected. I can also tell you that PPT does not provide the tools the state needs to protect all of our interests.
So the good news is that we are seeing generally broad support for the administrative tools contained in our bill that we’ve introduced.
We’ll continue to work with lawmakers to move Alaska to the forefront of new exploration and investment opportunities, while we restore the trust you deserve and demand in your oil and gas valuation system.
Our team was asked yesterday whether ACES would help or hurt our ability to bridge the gap until we have another substantial revenue stream available – for example from a gas pipeline.
Clearly it is our opinion that ACES will help. We want to encourage a strong partnership with the private sector in the development of these non-renewable resources.
ACES provides upfront assistance through business deductions and credits – the state is investing to the tune of 45 percent or better of all North Slope development.
As in any partnership, we expect to be treated like a true partner – with the same access to information as other partners.
And we want to make sure the state gets an equitable share in return.
One of the biggest concerns for the members of this chamber and this community has been developing the access road out of Juneau.
This road is a key part of our Department of Transportation’s long-term plans for transportation throughout Southeast Alaska. It is also a huge and complex engineering feat.
We’re working hard with the Army Corps of Engineers to get the project permitted.
As we learned from the Kensington project, having agency permits in hand doesn’t necessarily mean the project will move forward. Delays caused by lawsuits can cripple a project of this size.
That is why it is so critical that we take extra care to ensure that this project progresses appropriately.
Creating new job opportunities for our young Alaskans and preparing our kids for those opportunities is a top priority of my administration.
All too often, when we hear discussion about our education system and our kids’ ability to succeed in the workplace, we hear two common messages: (1) that we need to do more and (2) that the government needs to spend more.
While I agree that our education system must have the resources to be successful, we also must be innovative about how we spend our education dollars.
Our departments of Education, Labor and Workforce Development – in cooperation with industry and the University of Alaska – have joined efforts to examine how we can increase graduation rates, attendance rates and job placement rates.
As a result, we are now implementing a system that will identify gaps between student skills and employment needs. Our Work Ready/College Ready program will help align our curricula to meet the job skills employers need. And to not only help our students see the connection between school and work but to actually document a student’s readiness for work.
This is the type of partnership I envisioned when I took office – and it shows what can be accomplished when school, work, business and industry speak the same language and share the same goals for work readiness.
Now this is something the private sector, all employers and parents can get excited about!
A gasline will help shape our economic future – the same way that oil has shaped our economic present.
Developing the North Slope basin will allow access to Alaska’s tremendous gas reserves and make it available to the rest of the United States.
A gasline will benefit the Alaska economy by lowering energy costs and creating thousands of jobs. It will strengthen national security by reducing U.S. dependence on foreign energy. And we will build a gasline with minimal impact on the environment while supplying Alaska and the rest of the U.S. with clean-burning energy.
Our Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, passed during my first session, kick starts the construction of a gasline through an open, competitive and commercially reasonable process. I’ll be excited to open the proposals, which are due on Nov.30.
And let me tell you we are hearing very encouraging comments from companies looking to do business in Alaska! We have awesome potential here in Juneau and in the rest of the state. I see unlimited opportunities for us to work together to improve our workforce development, education, infrastructure and resource development. You know best how government impacts your ability to operate. I would like to hear your ideas on how we can improve Alaska’s business climate and ensure a solid financial, ethical, united future for Alaska. Thank you.
Speech from http://www.gov.state.ak.us/speeches.php?id=735.