Cookies and budget hints served at governor’s holiday open house in Juneau

‘This is going to be an education year,’ Dunleavy said before hundreds of guests arrived

By: Claire Stremple, Alaska Beacon

Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom, center, her husband Kit Dahlstrom, left, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy watch as early guests enter the Alaska Governor’s Mansion in Juneau on Dec. 12, 2023. (Photo by Claire Stremple/Alaska Beacon)

Alaskans braved wind and rain in Juneau to enjoy holiday cookies with the governor at his mansion on Tuesday afternoon, part of an open house tradition that governors have celebrated yearly since 1913 — with the exception of two years during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, his wife Rose Dunleavy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom and her husband Kit Dahlstrom greeted guests in front of the fireplace before volunteers ushered them through a buffet of cookies and sweets.

“I’m optimistic and I’m looking forward to next year,” Dunleavy said in a brief news conference before the event.

He said his budget would be released Thursday, and gave a preview of his priorities for 2024.

“This is going to be an education year,” Dunleavy said. He said to expect talks about education funding, charter schools and home schools.

“We have a model that works and we have the ability to provide this to all of our kids,” he said, citing how the state’s charter schools were ranked higher than any others in the nation by Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance.

“Our education system, with a few tweaks, we believe for all kids we can exceed and excel,” he said.

Dunleavy said he wants to make Alaska a more affordable state for families.

“The affordability issue is something that has always dogged Alaska because of our remote location and high cost of living, but we think we have some ideas that will make Alaska a place people want to come,” he said, adding that it is part of his promise to make Alaska the most pro-life state in the nation.

He also promised “adequate” funding for the ferry system in the budget, including a $23 million state match for federal grant dollars. Late last month the Federal Transit Administration announced roughly $132 million in funding for the Alaska Marine Highway System; most of the money is slated to replace the MV Tustumena.

Dunleavy said his administration would release its full budget on Thursday, then turned to his guests, which were estimated to number in the hundreds.