Resource development, transportation, education top priorities
January 11, 2006
"Our development initiatives are working. The private sector has created more than 13,600 new jobs in this state since this administration took office," Murkowski said. "Today we can look forward to both a permanent fund and a permanent economy."
Murkowski plans to deliver a State of the Budget Address to the Legislature on Thursday detailing the state's Fiscal Year 2007 priorities. Among the priorities highlighted Tuesday are another significant increase in K-12 funding, a balanced transportation agenda that includes Knik Arm and Gravina bridges and significant spending on road construction projects elsewhere in the state, and a rebalancing of the state's antiquated oil tax system.
"The key to Alaska's future, as I've noted many times, is the responsible development of our resource wealth. Not only do we have the wealth of our great land, but we have an energetic and determined people dedicated to its responsible stewardship," Murkowski said.
The governor asked the Legislature to support replacing the current outdated production tax system and its ELF exclusions with a "net profits tax" that will give the state a more reasonable share of oil revenues while encouraging exploration. If passed by the Legislature, the net profits tax would be included in terms of a fiscal contract the state is negotiating with the sponsor group to build a natural gas pipeline.
"It is time to reform our ELF oil production tax system with a new tax system that keeps industry strong, provides incentives for exploration and development and ensures that at high oil prices, Alaska gets a reasonable share compared to other oil provinces around the world," Murkowski said.
Murkowski is also seeking funds to continue a feasibility study on an Alaska-Canada rail extension to link with the Lower 48 rail system. Such a rail link could lower gas pipeline construction costs by $1 billion, speed mineral shipments from the Interior and possibly lead to a new cargo transportation industry, Murkowski said.
The governor's transportation initiatives include proposals to ease traffic congestion in Anchorage, Fairbanks, the Mat-Su Valley, Kenai and elsewhere. The governor also called for funding of the Knik Arm Bridge and the Gravina Island access projects.
Murkowski noted that the bridge projects create critical space for Anchorage and Ketchikan to grow while contributing to greater resource development opportunities. "The Knik Arm Crossing will give Anchorage and Mat-Su a place to grow. I predict that within a few short years after its construction we will have a brand new community there," Murkowski said.
The administration's education initiative includes continuing record levels of funding for K-12 schools while ensuring accountability. In the first three years of the administration, K-12 foundation formula funding rose by 22 percent. The proposed $90 million increase for FY07 would reflect a 33 percent increase in education funding over four years.
At the same time, the administration has implemented mentoring programs for new teachers and principals to attract and retain the best educators, expanded access at the successful Mt. Edgecumbe High School and shepherded improved performance in Alaska schools.
This year, 59 percent of Alaska schools made Adequate Yearly Progress, compared to 42 percent two years ago. The "achievement gap" for Alaska Native students and low income students has narrowed. The administration plans to expand on this success with an innovative performance incentive program for educators who improve Alaska schools.
"A well-supported public education system should be results driven and accountable," Murkowski said. "As we enter into the last year of our first term, I believe Alaskans would agree that our legislative program for education is the most successful of any governor."
Murkowski called on legislators to work cooperatively to continue to improve the future of Alaska through strong resource development opportunities, improved schools and a better quality of life for all Alaskans.
"Let us also pledge tonight to put aside our political and regional differences, recognize our strengths as Alaskans and provide the leadership to meet the expectations of those we represent," Murkowski said.
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