Governor Sean Parnell was in Ketchikan Saturday, and came by the KRBD station for an interview. Parnell talked about what Alaska – and specifically Ketchikan – can expect from the rest of this term, and his potential second full term.
Officially, Parnell was in town to be inducted into the local Eagle Killer Whale clan, during a ceremony in the Native village of Saxman. But he made time to talk about everything from capital projects to school funding.
The governor indicated that $15 million approved by the Legislature for upgrades to the Ketchikan Medical Center would remain in the final capital budget.
“The legislature and I worked very hard on setting a spending limit, and they were aligned with me on that,” said Parnell. “It was about 1 billion dollars less than the current fiscal year we’re in. That was in large part to preserve more of our savings for the future — the oil markets are softening, it was time for us to reign in spending overall.”
“Because at this point the legislature met the spending limit I had set, really what I’m looking for is whether there are any projects that should not go forward,” Parnell said. “Certainly in Ketchikan with the hospital being a top priority I’ve been fully supportive of that issue, and don’t see that being an issue. But we’re going through a legal review of what the legislature did, and so the final decisions will be made just prior to about May 22 or so.”
State money for the Medical Center had been in question. The Legislature added it and other local projects to the capital budget after the governor proposed a budget without them. Parnell has line item veto power.
The governor also suggested that he would not support initiatives by borough governments to have the state fund more for schools. He cites the importance of local control.
“I don’t know why the people of Ketchikan would want to give up their management authority, their say, over Ketchikan schools,” Parnell said. “And when you take away that small portion of control of funding, you get what other people tell you you’re gonna have, in this case Juneau or beyond that in Washington. I really do believe the people of Ketchikan know best about what their schools should look like and how their kids should be educated.”
The issue of how schools are funded in Alaska has been a hot topic in Ketchikan this year. The potential loss of federal funds to the borough has drawn attention to how much the state gives to the school district here. Boroughs in Alaska must pay at least 20 percent of school costs, while the state foots the rest. The Borough Assembly passed a resolution earlier calling for the reduction or repeal of that mandate, which would lead the State of Alaska to pay more for schools.
Parnell also reaffirmed his commitment to not retroactively pay back federal funds for schools that the state received earlier this year. He says there is quote “no legal basis” for the federal government to ask for those funds.
The governor, whose first full term in office ends next year, also discussed what he would focus on if re-elected.
“It’s about jobs and families, it’s about creating economic opportunity, it’s about strengthening families, so Alaskans can expect that,” Parnell said.
Parnell, who recently announced his intention to run for re-election, says he is consistent both personally and politically, and that Alaskans can expect more of the same in the future.
The governor also says it is a quote “tremendous honor” to be inducted into the Eagle Killer Whale clan.
Listen to KRBD later this week for a story on Parnell’s induction ceremony into Eagle Killer Whale.