When he takes over for Gov. Sarah Palin, Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell faces a tough but manageable assignment. Tops on his to-do list: follow through on Gov. Palin's progress toward a natural gas pipeline, sharpen the focus of state energy policy, build a sustainable budget despite declining oil revenues and stake out some initiatives of his own in fields like domestic violence and health care.
He'll have to do it in a politically charged atmosphere, with people from both sides of the aisle aiming to run for governor in 2010, as is Parnell himself.
Two factors should favor him: His experience – he logged eight years in the Legislature and six in the executive branch – and no one's ever accused him of being a celebrity. He knows how lawmakers work and how to work with them. And he's not likely to be the draw in a Lower 48 fundraiser. He can keep his focus on the home front.
Parnell has said he's still a whole-hearted supporter of Palin's Alaska Gasline Inducement Act process, and further, that he sees no need to revisit the state's current oil and gas tax regime because a gas line project looks like it will pay as is. Palin's gas line team of Tom Irwin (Commissioner of Natural Resources), Pat Galvin (commissioner of Revenue), and Marty Rutherford (deputy commissioner, DNR) has been steady, savvy and has helped to bring a gas line closer. Parnell should stay the course.
Palin helped put more than $100 million into alternative energy in Alaska. Parnell should try to sharpen the focus by concentrating on projects that promise to deliver the most results – Chakachamna hydro? More wind turbines? Geothermal? Gov. Palin set a worthy goal – 50 percent of Alaska's energy from renewable resources by 2025. But she never produced a road map to that goal. Alaska needs one.
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