by Jim Clark
July 03, 2004
The excuses range from the comment that the "governor didn't do his homework" to others, such as "the governor didn't talk to me."
Sen. Johnny Ellis' excuse that the special session failed because the governor may obtain third-priority access to a jet that might be purchased with federal money by the Department of Public Safety is too absurd to warrant a response.
In fact, there were three main reasons the administration was unable to place a resolution of the state's structural deficit on the November ballot for a decision by the people.
First, some senators do not believe the people should have the opportunity to vote on whether to use a portion of Alaska Permanent Fund earnings to maintain public services.
Second, some senators thought the timing was wrong -- that Alaskans would not vote to use Permanent Fund earnings to maintain essential public services when oil prices were approaching $40 per barrel. They suggest there would be more support if there was a crisis.
And third, some urban Democratic senators did not want this administration to achieve what they saw as a political victory and thus kept "moving the goalposts" to avoid a solution (especially during the last days of the regular session).
During the State of the State Speech in January, the governor convened a conference of 55 Alaskans to meet in Fairbanks in February. They met and advanced four resolutions to deal with the state's structural deficit. They approved using a portion of the earnings of the Permanent Fund to cover the dividend and to maintain essential public services like education.
The governor then requested that the Legislature review the recommendations of the Conference of Alaskans and take them up along with their own solutions in a special session within the regular Legislative session.
The Legislature said it would rather seek a solution during the regular session. The governor agreed. Although the House passed a good package that would have done so, the Legislature as a whole did not.
So at the conclusion of the regular session, the governor proposed either they call themselves back to finish their work or he would reserve the right to call them back at an appropriate time. And he did.
On the day the governor called the special session, he met with Sens. Gene Therriault, Ben Stevens and Gary Wilken for nearly two hours in the board room of Denali State Bank in North Pole. The Senate leadership was briefed in detail about the governor's plan to grow the dividend with a portion of the Permanent Fund going to education and community assistance.
The governor and others of us on staff spoke with nearly every legislator about the governor's proposals before and during the special session.
On the issue of seeing each and every legislator, it is understood in Juneau that the governor's door is open. He takes and returns calls and meets with legislators. House Speaker Pete Kott recently confirmed that in detail.
In short, the "homework" and other excuses being advanced are not the real reasons the Legislature failed to solve the state's fiscal problems. Instead of legislators justifying their inaction by complaining about what the governor did or did not do to advance a solution to the state's fiscal problem, they should be asked what actions they took to bring fiscal certainty to Alaska's future.
Note: Jim Clark is Chief of
Staff for Alaska's Governor Frank Murkowski.
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.