July | August 2017


The Crippling Effects of the Dysfunction in D.C.




Alaska Rep. Craig Johnson

Alaska Rep. Craig Johnson is the 2014 chair of The Council of State Governments West. The fourth-term representative has been involved with CSG for several years. He’s a 2008 graduate of the Western Legislative Academy and is a former chair of the Water and Public Lands Committee, which changed to Water and Environment, before moving into the CSG West leadership track. He ran for office because he “got tired of people losing their kids to the lower 48 because there weren’t job opportunities.” He focuses his legislative work on economic and resource development.
1 | What do you see as the most pressing issue facing the nation as a whole in 2014?
“I think the dysfunctionality of our federally elected officials, their inability to accomplish anything, to find any common ground. I’m probably as conservative as anyone, maybe more than most, but I think you have to seek common ground and that’s an element missing from the federal government.”

2 | What do you see as the most pressing issue facing states across in the West in 2014?
“We are probably unique in the country in that, with a very few exceptions, the federal government either owns or influences substantial amount of lands. … With the incapacity of the federal government to function, in my opinion, our biggest challenge is going to be how do we work through that and be able to develop our economic base in light of a federal government that is dysfunctional. … One of the problems we’re going to face—and I’m not sure how much is on the horizon—but as the federal budgets and the federal money to states diminishes, how are we going to fill that void? We’re still going to be dealing with (the) regulations of federal government, but we’re going to be given responsibility without the ability to really do anything.”
3 | What will state leaders need to do to address those issues in the most effective way?
“In Alaska, we’re somewhat isolated and we were a lone voice, but I found that we had so much in common with so many other states, not just in the West. With CSG and CSG West, when we speak as one voice, we’re more likely to be heard than one state out there squeaking on its own. … I think we speak better with one voice than we do as a bunch of individuals out there. Our choir is much better than our solo act.”
4 | How can CSG help with those efforts?
“Speaking with one voice. I also think the training (like that at WLA) … gives members a heads up. The members that participate in CSG, you can see their knowledge base and their ability to deal with people, it really shines, and especially in those new people. … What CSG brings is the ability to communicate with other people and not have to recreate the wheel every time. You can go to another state and say, ‘Hey, I saw that you guys did this, what were the advantages, what were the pitfalls?’ I think the networking is very important, the policies that we’ve seen be successful and, quite frankly, fail in other areas prevents us from stepping on those landmines.”
5 | How can state policymakers get involved with CSG and make the most of that involvement?
“I think you’ve got to be involved. If you’re going to be a good carpenter, you’d better practice the trade. ... I think what CSG offers is an area where you can improve your craft, although we’re all somewhat independent contractors … We sometimes think as states we live in a bubble but, quite frankly, there’s not a lot new out there and what’s been done in another place can oftentimes be replicated. They say all politics is local, but sometimes you have to step outside your bounds and look around.”