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Governor Calls Special Session for June 22


June 05, 2004

Fairbanks, Alaska - Governor Frank Murkowski on Firday called the Alaska Legislature into special session to address the state's long term fiscal shortfall. Murkowski issued a proclamation to all legislators, saying the special session will convene in Juneau on Tuesday, June 22 at 10 a.m. The Governor made the following statement:

"I am today calling a special session of the Legislature to meet in Juneau on June 22, 2004.

"I am calling it here in Fairbanks at Signers' Hall to remind Alaskans of the tremendous contribution made by the 55 men and women of the Conference of Alaskans to bring our attention to the need to address the state's fiscal stability.

"The purpose of the special session is to fix the state's long-term fiscal problem while oil prices are high and we have the luxury of not being in an economic crisis.

"A solution will assure the state's ability to maintain essential public services like education, health care, roads and public safety.

"I want to emphasize the fiscal fix is designed not only to protect essential public services, but also to protect your dividend. My first principle for a plan is that it must protect both the Permanent Fund and the dividend.

"As many of you may know, the Legislature already has the authority to spend every nickel of the $4 billion dollars currently in the Permanent Fund's earnings reserve account.

"The endowment concept for management of the Permanent Fund, which the House has already passed, would constitutionally limit the amount the Legislature could spend to no more the 5% of the value of the Fund.

"This limitation would stabilize the Fund and make the annual dividend more predictable going forward.

"There are other ways to protect the dividend that I am prepared to support so long as a reasonable portion of the Fund's earnings are available to maintain essential public services like education.

"Let me explain why I believe education funding is so important. I have heard from many educators and parents who believe their schools do not have the financial resources to adequately meet the demands of educating their children. That's why I supported the $82 million increase in the foundation formula for the next school year. The only way to continue this level of education funding in the future is to identify new revenues to pay for it, such as some of the Permanent Fund's earnings. What better way is there to invest in our future?

"Another principle for a plan that I will support is funding for safe and strong communities. The House-passed package included a 5% community dividend, which would allow communities to pay for needed services or roll back local taxes.

"We have reduced spending by more than $245 million over the last two sessions of the Legislature. I have directed my fiscal team to continue these efforts to ensure that we have an effective, efficient state government that delivers results for Alaskans.

"The third principle on which a fiscal package must be based is a real spending limit that will force government to prioritize and be more efficient. I will not let public funds be wasted by building a bloated bureaucracy.

"The last but most important principle is a responsibility that I have placed at the forefront of my administration-to grow the economy by developing Alaska's natural resource wealth-just as Congress intended when Alaska was granted Statehood.

"Through revenue earned from natural resource development we can grow the Permanent Fund and to provide jobs for our kids. This is our highest responsibility. For example, just today we were present for the opening of the Pogo mine, which will provide over 300 jobs when operating. We signed legislation to extend the Alaska Railroad. This is the first extension since 1923.

"The proclamation, which I am issuing today, will include a spending limit, an endowment concept for the Permanent Fund's management, and legislation to split the endowment payout among the dividend, funding for communities and education.

"While the proclamation will also allow bond packages for needed transportation infrastructure, like a fix for the Anchorage traffic congestion problem and meet University needs, I will only approve these packages if they are part of the fiscal fix. We cannot afford to jeopardize the state's credit rating by approving a bond package if we do not have a fiscal solution.

"The call will also include a tobacco tax, which is essential to help reduce teen smoking, and the overwhelming costs of tobacco related illness. This is unfinished business. As you recall, time ran out before the Legislature could pass it.

"Finally, the proclamation will include a workers' compensation bill. This is important to small businesses in Alaska, which are relying on us to find ways to reduce the escalating insurance costs.

"I would like to conclude by pointing out how high the expectations of Alaskans are that the Legislature will enact a solution to the state's long-term fiscal problem and do it now."


Source of News Release:

Office of the Governor
Web Site



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