Gov. Mike Dunleavy delivered his state of the state address this week.
Dunleavy, who is beginning his third year as the state's chief executive, stressed the importance of self-reliance for the state and its communities.
It's a concept not lost on Alaskans since the novel coronavirus first appeared in Alaska in the spring of 2020.
Washington state, which locked down harder and longer than Alaska, saw Seattle entertain shutting down its port — the port from which much of Alaska's freight is shipped.
Vancouver, British Columbia, from which Alaska's tourism industry operates a portion of its cruise ships, closed to most cruise lines, and Canada established strict rules for motor vehicles passing through its provinces to the Alaska Highway, noting the border could be shut down if the rules weren't adhered to.
The COVID-19-related implications for Alaska were bad, but the state did a remarkable job with its response.
For example, it turned to the business community, using its connections Outside to acquire personal protection equipment, and calling on Alaskans to begin manufacturing swabs and sanitizer within the state. It enlarged the health care community's workforce, moving up the graduation date for the year's nursing students. It also established guidelines and procedures to allow for the summer fishing season, which unfortunately turned out to be an additional disappointment. Southeast Alaska recorded one of its worst years because of low returns.
Still, this experience and these circumstances show Alaskans can find and take advantage of opportunity in order to survive.
Gov. Dunleavy proposes — and local officials have similarly mentioned it, too — that Alaska and its communities should become self-reliant in terms of food supply, medicine, energy and security.
Dunleavy proposes greater investment in the state's agriculture and mariculture, and undoubtedly sustaining and enhancing both commercial and sport fisheries.
He suggests examining which pharmaceuticals could be produced in Alaska, and expanding tidal, wind and hydro power sources. Alaska exceeds any other state for tidal energy potential.
He also noted the importance of Alaska being allowed to extract its natural resources, particularly oil, in an environmentally responsible manner. (He didn't mention the timber industry specifically, but the forest is a natural resource and harvest, like fishing, could occur during a pandemic.)
He also proclaimed success in reducing crime and enhancing law enforcement since taking office, and expressed a desire to expand education possibilities for reading, math and coding — educational basics in 2021.
Alaska is abundant in not only natural resources — including its next generation with its developing skills and ingenuity — but in potential to sustain itself.
The governor calls for "a once in a lifetime budget for a once in a lifetime disaster" (COVID-19), essentially giving every Alaskan $5,000 through the Alaska Permanent Fund payout this year, and for a spending cap to get the state's finances in order while funding education and infrastructure that leads to and sustains economic development.
To relieve a bit of the demand against the permanent fund, he allowed that perhaps some Alaskans might be given state land in lieu of cash. This land — in private ownership — might be used to build Alaska residentially and commercially.
Dunleavy mentioned a state sales tax, but only in the context of Alaska's voters endorsing it at the polls — an unlikely prospect.
Addressing the state's financial picture this legislative session is a next-to-impossible job without new taxes. The alternative is new and expanded business and industry.
When in a pinch, as 2020 was, Alaska started to think outside of the norm. These are not normal times, and a new or renewed effort for a self-sustaining Alaskan economy is the state's and Alaskans' top priority.