3-Day Conference Will Recommend Proper Public Policy for Long Term
February 11, 2004
Murkowski noted that in his 30-years of public service, he had never "stood on a threshold like this and looked so clearly into the face of our future. I cannot remember so much opportunity, condensed into such a concentrated moment in time for Alaska."
"This is our date with destiny," Murkowski said. "This is our shining hour. You are the face of our state and in the next three days, you will be the architect of its future."
Murkowski called upon delegates not to get bogged down with what they thought would "fly" with the Legislature, but to recommend the right public policy for the future. He also reiterated his request that they concentrate their time on finding answers to the four policy questions he had asked of them.
The Governor laid a foundation for his call to action, based on the essence of statehood and the historical, unique compact made between Alaska and the other states, which granted 104 million acres to the state. The land grant was to be put to work to grow the economy and provide for public services. "We entered the union uniquely situated to our task," Murkowski said, "while some doubted we could succeed. We were the nation's only Arctic state, with virtually no public infrastructure, no power grid, sparsely populated, and with virtually no private property. How could we shoulder the burden of government? How could we make fiscal ends meet?"
On a portion of that 104 million acres, Alaskans discovered oil and captured the royalty income to fund state government. "We converted a portion of that royalty income to the renewable resources of annual earnings in our Permanent Fund," Murkowski said.
While Alaska is like every other state government that grapples with growing deficits, and has been politically paralyzed by indecision about budget and finance, it has the advantage of having extraordinary wealth.
"We have an allocation gap, not a fiscal gap," Murkowski said. "Without our wealth, we would be just another state on the rocks of fiscal instability. The story for history will not be about our fiscal gap. The story will be about our solution about our climb out of our fiscal trap."
Murkowski emphasized the need to protect the core purposes and essential services of state government, such as transportation, public safety, and public health - the very concerns of those who struggled for statehood and obtained the commitment of 104 million acres to make statehood work.
The Governor thanked the delegates for taking part in the conference, where he said they were "gathered on the ledge of our ascent. Thank you for lending your unique genius to the conference, and for putting aside your daily responsibilities and the comfort of your home," he said.
The 55 delegates, plus four legislators attending in a non-voting, ex-officio capacity, will meet through Thursday evening. They have been asked by Murkowski to provide answers to the following four questions:
Murkowski said the recommendations of the conference will serve as the basis for legislation that would go on the November general election ballot. "Then, all of us must present our vision to our fellow Alaskans for their approval," Murkowski said.
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