March 16, 2004
The last time a sitting Governor testified before a legislative committee was in 1993, when then-Governor Walter Hickel spoke to a joint meeting of the House and Senate Economic Task Force committees to advocate for natural resource development, value-added industry and processing, and Alaska jobs.
Murkowski said he came to the committee in person to emphasize the importance of getting to a solution and enacting it this session, following the recommendations made by the Conference of Alaskans last month in Fairbanks. Committee Chairman Senator Gary Wilken agreed that it was highly unusual, and that the Governor's appearance at the committee underscored the seriousness of the situation.
"We all agree that the state needs a resolution this session of Alaska's long-term fiscal problem," Murkowski said. "It is not responsible to pass on to a future Legislature or Governor the fiscal gap with which I was confronted on assuming office in December 2002."
"The fiscal resolution we need must cover the period between now and the time when revenue from the gas pipeline and other natural resource development starts to fill our treasury. In short, Alaska needs a fiscal bridge."
Murkowski gave committee members a brief update on progress the administration has made on the natural gas pipeline. He noted that he and his staff have met, and will continue to meet, with the North Slope producers who have lease rights to the gas, with TransCanada, the major gas shipper in Canada, and with the MidAmerican-led sponsor group that has applied under the Stranded Gas Development Act to negotiate fiscal and other terms related to construction of a pipeline.
Although he did not introduce a specific package of legislation based on the recommendations of the Conference of Alaskans, Murkowski listed the following criteria he would like the Legislature to use as a guide:
Murkowski reminded members of the committee that, "Doing nothing is not a solution." The Governor has been assured by legislative leaders that they will bring legislation on the fiscal problem to a conclusion by the end of March.
The Governor will be in Juneau
for the first two days of the Legislature's concentrated consideration
of the fiscal issues, but will travel to Dillingham on Wednesday
to speak to the Bristol Bay Native Association board meeting,
and to Fairbanks on Thursday to speak to the Tanana Chiefs Conference.
He will be following the Legislature's hearings closely through