Gubernatorial candidate Sarah Palin shared her vision of the economic future of Alaska, as part of a series of three forums being held by UAA’s Economics Club through Dec. 7.
Palin spoke positively about UAA, saying she hopes her teenage son, a hockey player, will attend one day.
Palin came to Alaska with her parents in 1964. She has resided in Alaska ever since, graduating from Wasilla High School and briefly attending UAA and the Mat-SU College.
She left Alaska to attend school in Idaho, where she earned a degree in journalism. After her return to Alaska, Palin sat on the Wasilla City Council and served two terms as Wasilla mayor.
During her speech, Palin continually stressed the importance oil and gas companies play in the Alaska economy. In her priorities for Alaska’s economic future, she placed oil companies at the top.
“Number one is that we need a solid oil and gas industry in Alaska if we are to financially survive anywhere near our current level,” Palin said.
While placing oil and gas companies at the top of her list, Palin doesn’t intend to take a subservient attitude towards the current “big three” in Alaska.
“Obviously, oil and gas is huge, it’s our state’s bread and butter; but that doesn’t mean that we have to pander and roll over to the ‘big three’ oil companies,” she said. “It means that more than ever we need to make sure that there’s a competitive environment up there on the Slope.”
She thinks a competitive environment will carry over into whatever agreement is negotiated over a gas pipeline in Alaska.
Palin said she supports the proposal posed by the Alaska Gasline Port Authority, called the all-Alaska gasline, because it would provide Alaska’s natural gas to Alaskans by routing the gas through Alaska instead of Canada.
According to the Port Authority’s Web site, the gasline would extend from the North Slope, to Anchorage and Valdez, with gas transported by ship from Valdez to North America’s Western seaboard.
UAA senior Trina Bosnan agrees with Palin’s opinions on the all-Alaska gasline. “I’m all for it,” she said.
Junior Mike Mott is also in favor of routing a gasline through Alaska. “I think it should go through Alaksa, we’ve got plenty of land.”
Palin stressed the access that rural Alaska would have to the gas through the all-Alaska gasline.
“The propane portion of the gas, can be delivered to those rural communities; those coastal communities, at a much lower price than they’re currently paying, and that’s going to be rural Alaska’s answer to many of their economic problems,” she said.
To combat the economic problems faced by rural Alaskans, along with many of rural Alaska’s social problems, Palin recommends increasing the development of natural resources.
“My belief is that man was created to work; and without good jobs, without solid industry, good training and resource development, I think Alaskans lose spirit. We can see that in rural Alaska,” she said.
Palin said the government is responsible for supporting rural development by providing tools for developers.
Another segment of Alaska’s population that received attention during Palin’s speech was Alaska’s elderly. Palin pointed out that retirement funds contribute 20 percent of the new money in Alaska annually.
She voiced opposition to the administration’s handling of issues dealing with Alaska’s elderly.
“How did we show our respect and our recognition of all they contribute? The governor vetoed the longevity bonus,” she said. “It didn’t make a lot of sense to me then and – it still doesn’t make a lot of sense to me, that of all programs, that was cut.”
Palin continued to criticize the administration’s handling of the longevity bonus, pointing out that the voters of Alaska were not allowed an opportunity to play a role in the decision.
“It was cut without discussion with the public on how to make the thing more efficiently run,” she said.
Junior UAA student Dave Krom agrees with Palin’s opposition to the cut. He felt the longevity bonus was unfairly taken away from a segment of the population that is often under-represented in politics. He pointed out that helping the elderly is an Alaska tradition.
“It’s part of our heritage,” Krom said.
Palin’s criticism of the administration culminated in an expression of what she believes Alaskans are looking for in the upcoming election.
“What Alaskans are craving is some vision, some new vision, new voices, new leadership, people who will be bold enough to challenge the status quo,” she said.
The gubernatorial candidate forums will conclude with Eric Croft Dec. 7. The last forum will be held in Rasmuson Hall, Room 101 at 4 p.m.