By Gov. Frank H. Murkowski
May 26, 2005
The special session wrapped up on Wednesday with none of the acrimony that you might have seen on the nightly news or in the papers. We saw an orderly end to a hugely successful special session. The pundits characterized this as a "not so special" session, but anyone who was paying attention knows differently.
We delivered meaningful workers' compensation reform to businesses big and small that create the jobs in Alaska. We created a balanced appeals commission with five-year staggered terms and expertise in workers' compensation issues that can deliver consistent rulings that both employees and employers can rely upon. We empowered employers to negotiate for lower medical costs, made needed change to 'palliative' care, improved fraud enforcement, and improved reemployment benefits.
Our university lands legislation at last will fulfill the promise of establishing a true land grant institution at the University of Alaska and in the process moved forward on our goal to begin to get more land into the hands of private citizens. We set out a process to convey 250,000 acres of land that UA will use to generate revenue and enhance academic research. This bill is coupled with federal legislation to convey the same amount of federal land. Land issues are always contentious in Alaska, but lawmakers came together and supported the University of Alaska. We owe them our gratitude.
We also passed a PERS/TRS reform bill, honoring our commitment to our retired and current public employees to keep our pension system solvent for the long haul. Perhaps reading the newspapers leaves you with the impression that a 401(k) style savings plan is new and untested, but we all know better. Our new pension system will give generous benefits to those who chose to stay with government service and offer greater portability to those who move on to private business. Our action on this issue makes us a national leader, and we hope you will take the time to investigate what it means for Alaska and its valuable employees.
Plus, we passed oil and gas exploration credits for Bristol Bay, Cook Inlet, and the Nenana Basin. We improved funding for education and raised teacher accountability, stood up to the federal government on navigable waters, Coastal Management and other issues, and passed a capital budget that will cut congestion on the highways and let you spend more time with your families.
In the face of our 'not-so-right' leaning critics who claimed this was a 'not-so-special' session we delivered for Alaskans.
At the end of the day, that's what really matters.
Frank H. Murkowski
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