Bill Walker Talks Rural Alaska Issues

by Angela Denning-Barnes on February 11, 2014

Walker mugBill Walker is running for governor as an Independent with running mate Craig Fleener of Fort Yukon. Walker spoke with KYUK about energy, education and tribal issues. He says the cost of energy should be the State’s number one priority.

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“I’m very, very concerned about that,” Walker says. “Our constitution is very clear, we’re supposed to, you know, utilize our resources for the maximum benefit for our people and I don’t think having high energy costs is doing that.”

He says there are immediate, midterm and long term solutions, which he intends to detail out in a an energy plan he’ll submit to the State in April.

He says the current Power Cost Eqaulization subsidy program should continue in the near future and the state should look at refining Alaska’s oil instead of shipping it in from other places.

“There’s something wrong with our system that our refined products are so expensive,” Walker says.

However, he says PCE is a not a long-term solution because local businesses do not qualify for it, which hinders economic growth. He says the long-term solution is getting natural gas from the North Slope to Alaskans and expanding renewable energy projects.

“I think we’ve got to get off of diesel and that’s part of the problem is that we’ve just stayed on diesel and we haven’t changed that at all,” Walker says.

Regarding education, Walker says it’s not being adequately funded which is a constitutional mandate. He says the state is lacking enough alternative opportunities for students to further their education.

“I’m very favorable and bullish on vocational and technical pathways added to our mainstream schooling and I think that we’re missing the boat,” Walker says. “I want to make sure that when kids come out of high school they can go right into a trade, they could work on the North Slope, they have the training for that. I’m very frustrated at the high percentage of out of state workers who work up on the North Slope in those high paying jobs. I much rather them commute from Bethel to Prudhoe Bay then from Biloxi, Mississippi to Prudhoe Bay.”

He says Vo-Tech schools have much higher graduation rates than other high schools in Alaska.

Tribes should have more opportunity to manage issues on a local level, according to Walker. He’s attended AFN many times and says he has learned a lot about tribal issues there.

“I don’t think the system as it is right now is working,” Walker says. “I think we should look at a different system, you know, granting more autonomy to the tribal governments, I think, on the local level makes a lot of sense.”

He does support tribal courts.

When it comes to managing dwindling King salmon runs throughout the state, Walker blames part of it on a lack of leadership. He says there are too many politics and not enough science behind the decision-making right now, which he would change as governor.

Bill Walker was born in Fairbanks, raised in Valdez and Delta, and has been living in Anchorage for 25 years.

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