Dunleavy calls on Legislature to take action on PFD, state land sale and food security in State of State address

In his fourth State of the State address on Tuesday evening, Gov. Mike Dunleavy called on the Legislature to pass bills to resolve permanent fund dividends, increase Alaskans’ food security and sell state land.

And he urged lawmakers to prove people wrong who say nothing will get done in an election year.

“Most Alaskans outside this room don’t plan their lives around an election season,” he said. “They plan their lives around hunting or fishing, construction season or tourism season, but not an election season. Alaskans won’t accept that we can’t get anything done because it’s an election year.”

It was the first in-person address Dunleavy gave to a joint session since before the pandemic led to changes in safety rules in the Capitol. And at nearly an hour, it was his longest State of the State.

Dunleavy said he envisioned a state where educational outcomes improve and people feel safer.

He also described different state efforts to increase the number of health care workers in the state, including plans to train more certified nursing assistants and registered nurses, as well as his proposal to increase the number of state-supported medical students from 20 to 30.

“Together, with these partners, we’ll build a stronger, more durable health care system in Alaska that can respond to almost any situation,” he said.

Dunleavy said the state is at the mercy of others for its food, and he wants to increase the state’s food security. That includes plans to start a food security task force and to sell state land for agriculture.

He contrasted the state with Texas, where 95% of the land is privately owned.

“But here in Alaska, the biggest state in the country by far, we have barely 4% of our land in private hands,” he said. “This has got to change.”

Senate President Peter Micciche, a Soldotna Republican, praised the speech, including what the governor described as his vision for the state.

“The test is going to be how serious is that vision,” Micciche said. “And is the administration going to put the work in on being here in this building for the next 90 days, guiding us through and working with us?”

Some of the legislation that Dunleavy described has already been introduced. But he said he would issue an executive order and introduce a bill to start the food security task force.

Dunleavy recognized two young Alaskans who had big years: Olympic gold medalist Lydia Jacoby, who wasn’t in the Capitol, and Miss America Emma Broyles, who was.

But the biggest applause of the night was for another guest of the governor, Carley Rose Kelly. Dunleavy described how she survived domestic violence, drug addiction and homelessness to become a peer support specialist for at-risk youth.

Rep. Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, wrote on social media after the address that more Alaskans would experience recovery if Dunleavy hadn’t vetoed $10 million for treatment centers in 2019. A spokesperson for the governor said at the time that the money wasn’t attached to specific projects.

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Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.