Walker to Chamber: Don’t grade me, bro’



Gov. Bill Walker was feeling tased by the recent Alaska Business Report Card. He brought it up in his remarks to the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce, which was holding its fall meeting in Kenai this week.

The Alaska Business Report Card had given him a “D” grade. It released that grade on Sept. 13. A number of those people who take part in the project were in the audience.

“You need to stop giving us grades,” he said to the business leaders assembled at the Challenger Learning Center, before stopping himself and shifting direction. He said, “Don’t pick on my administration. I am pretty defensive about my team.”

Many on his team come from the private sector, Walker continued. They gave up huge jobs and big paychecks to come and work for his administration. “Attack me,” he said, “just don’t attack my people.”

Two weeks ago the governor sent a letter to the Chamber and other groups participating in the Report Card project, in which he painstakingly defended his administration in a strongly worded rebuke.

“Enclosed is a point-by-point response to your unsigned letter dated September 12, 2016, purporting to assess the performance of my Administration during the past legislative session. Overall, it is difficult to take the grade or analysis seriously, [ital. ours] on account of your shifting criteria and inaccurate and selective use of facts,” Walker wrote.

But Walker did take it seriously. He disputed each and every grade he received and went on for six pages — single spaced — doing so. He sent his rebuttal letter not only to the Alaska Chamber of Commerce, but to the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, the Resource Development Council, and Prosperity Alaska, a group that sponsors the Accountability Project.

[Read the letter here.]

Walker’s letter went on to chastise the business community: “Our state is facing an unprecedented fiscal challenge…What have your organizations done to help solve this overarching threat to Alaska’s prosperity?”

Business leaders have repeatedly admonished the governor to bring down government overhead before looking for new revenues.

In his remarks to the Chamber this week, he remarked about how hard it is to govern during times of crises: “I will take all the blame, and if there’s any credit you can take the credit.”

But in his letter to the Chamber and other groups that make up the Alaska Business Report Card, he put the blame squarely on members of the Legislature: “To blame my Administration for the inaction of lawmakers — some of whom publicly admitted that their re-election was a higher priority than fixing the fiscal gap — negligently fails to assign responsibility to where it belongs.”

The governor blamed the Legislature for not passing even one item of his New Sustainable Alaska Plan, a mix of taxes and Permanent Fund restructuring:

“Also not factored into your assessment was our proposal, introduced during the last legislative session as part of the New Sustainable Alaska Plan, to pay these credits off in full. Here again, it was legislative inaction that resulted in the eventual outcome. Without a single piece of our plan passing the Legislature, it would have been irresponsible to pay out the credits beyond the minimum required in statute,” he wrote in his letter of rebuttal to the Report Card partners.

But during the legislative session he had a different tune. He said his entire tax plan had to pass — it was all or nothing. He would not accept just an income tax, a gasoline tax, or higher corporation taxes. He demanded all of the parts, including the restructuring of the Permanent Fund, to be passed at once.

In a May 31 press conference, Walker also bristled about criticism of his administration:

“Those that say we haven’t done enough — I’m pushing back on that. I’m very offended by that.  That’s unjustified and it’s an insult — not to me — it’s an insult to my staff. Our directors, our cabinet members, that have given up, you know, a lot of their personal time to travel this great state to do that.”

This week he was equally offended, only he expressed it directly to the Alaska business community.