Gov. Bill Walker

Alaskans will soon receive our annual dividend checks. This year’s $1,022 check for every qualified resident will help Alaska families with things like winter fuel, food and clothes, holiday gifts, and saving for college. These checks will boost local businesses and increase local tax revenues.

In the final stages of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, many quit their jobs prior to the completion of TAPS because they wanted to be first in line to work on the gasline. Alaska expected construction to begin that quickly.

Thousands of Alaskan families likely breathed a sigh of relief May 31 when the legislature passed its budget to avoid a government shutdown less than 24 hours before the deadline to issue layoff warnings. Last year, pink slips did go out. Nothing has been done yet this year to ensure we don’t repeat this next year.

Once again, the legislature voted to balance the budget by drawing down the constitutional budget reserve. In just two years, we will have drawn $7.6 billion from savings.

Here are the effects:

As the Legislature nears the end of the constitutional 120-day session, I am gravely concerned about the possible outcome.

Our state is in a difficult fiscal position. Due mainly to world oil prices and our over-dependence on oil, we have only about one-fifth of the revenue we need to balance the budget. And that’s after several years of budget cuts and almost no capital investment.

By now, most of you know we have a budget challenge: Over the past two years, Alaska’s oil revenue has plummeted by 88 percent, mainly due to a sharp drop in oil prices.

We’ve cut the budget from $8 billion in 2012 to $4.8 billion. Despite these reductions, our deficit amounts to more than half our annual budget.

This was an historic week for Alaska. Thanks to our state legislators, we took a significant step toward controlling our own destiny.

The Legislature held about two weeks of hearings to examine my proposal to buy out TransCanada’s interest, then almost unanimously approved my request to exercise our option to take over Alaska’s share of the gas pipeline project.

This is not just a financial or contractual arrangement. It’s so much more. For the first time in a long time, Alaska is stepping up and taking out the middleman between us and our future.