United States

Dunleavy pledges to fight feds, fentanyl in State of the State address

(The Center Square) – Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy said he would fight the federal government and outside interests that are restricting the state from capitalizing on its natural resources.

“No less than 41 executive actions – 41 – have been taken by the current administration to strangle Alaska’s promises of statehood,” Dunleavy said. “Few other states have this challenge. For example, I’ve never heard an Alaskan worry about what they’re doing in Arkansas, or Rhode Island, or Delaware.”

The federal government is not the only challenge to Alaska’s statehood, Dunleavy said.

“But there is a constant stream of people from outside of here, trying to turn Alaska into their fairy tale image of a national park where income can be produced merely on love and goodwill,” Dunleavy said. “This isn’t reality, but this is a challenge we struggle with every day, and I’ll do everything in my power to defend the rights guaranteed to Alaskans at Statehood.”

Dunleavy did not list specifics in his address but said his statehood defense budget “goes beyond additional funding for our legal efforts.”

The state should also be known as a place that welcomes families through what he calls the Healthy Families initiative.

“We are asking for funding to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage from 60 days to 12 months to ensure that moms and their children get off to a healthy start in life,” Dunleavy said. “This initiative will also fund recruitment and retention of the health care professionals we need to fill the 5,000 jobs that will be required over the next 10 years.”

One lawmaker said she hoped Dunleavy’s committee goes beyond health care.

“As a teacher, I’ve seen firsthand what meaningful investment in our classrooms can mean to a child’s life,” Rep. Maxine Dilbert, D-Fairbanks, said in a statement. “I’m hopeful that the Governor’s commitment to families means making that investment.”

The governor said he plans to introduce a bill that “declares war” on fentanyl.

“This drug is not your grandparents’ marijuana,” Dunleavy said. “This drug, taken in the smallest amounts, knowingly or unknowingly, can cause death in a matter of moments. Last year, law enforcement seized 13.4 million potentially fatal doses of fentanyl here in Alaska. That’s enough to kill the entire population of Alaska 18 times over, and I’m thankful to our local, state, and federal drug enforcement officers who no doubt saved countless Alaskan lives through these efforts.”

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, said he thinks the governor has a good approach to the fentanyl crisis.

“We can take a look at that issue when we go through the budget to make sure we have enough capacity or holding facilities,” Stedman said in a news conference held by the Senate Majority.

Dunleavy did not outline specifics in his speech. Sen. Bill Wielechowski, D-Anchorage, said he hopes the governor’s plans include affordable housing, child care, K-12 education, SNAP benefits and university funding.

“I guess the devil is in the details,” Wielechowski said.

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