in Major Addresses
November 17, 2003
Juneau - In addressing gatherings of two of Alaska's most respected public organizations, Governor Murkowski last week took the opportunity to highlight and advocate for his economic development and fiscal plans. On Wednesday evening, Nov. 12th,, he spoke to the Alaska Municipal League in Nome, and on Thursday at noon he spoke to the Associated General Contractors in Anchorage.
At the AML, Murkowski stressed the need to continue to discipline state spending. He noted that when he took office, the budget was running a deficit that required an annual draw on the Constitutional Budget Reserve of more than $800 million, was growing each year, and there was no alternative source of revenue in sight.
"We initiated a comprehensive review of state agencies performance standards with the objective of aligning mission priorities with available funding," Murkowski said. "This was the first such comprehensive review of state government since 1976. We are making government smaller and more efficient as a result of this process."
In the upcoming FY05 budget, Murkowski said he will continue his multi-year fiscal plan to spend less on government operations than in the previous fiscal year, and to keep the CBR draw under $400 million. His fiscal plan strategy is to make the CBR savings account last until revenues from new oil and gas development start flowing into the general fund.
Murkowski told AML delegates that economic development, access to resources, and initiatives to stimulate the economy are central to his fiscal plan. As an example, he recapped his recent Far East trade mission, the visit of Taiwan President Chen, Shui-bian to Anchorage, and efforts to market wild Alaska salmon to fast food restaurants.
"Alaska is at the beginning of a new era for resource development, international exports and the great jobs that go with it," Murkowski said. "My administration's goal of building the infrastructure required to improve access to our vast natural resources will help prepare us for future opportunities in world markets."
"Alaska's export sector and economy will benefit from these changes and grow. More importantly, the quality of life and financial opportunities for individual Alaskan's will improve. We are already starting to see the beginnings of positive changes taking place in our economy. The 3,400 new jobs created so far in 2003 is an excellent start and we expect that expansion to continue at even a faster pace over the next three years. We want more jobs -- good job opportunities for Alaskans, so that our young people can choose to begin their careers here and raise their families here."
But changes needed to gain efficiencies in government will be required, he said. "We are well on the way to accomplishing budget discipline, with the fiscal plan we have imposed to discipline State government," Murkowski said. "Unfortunately, the media sometimes focuses so much on the belt tightening, that the public doesn't get to hear about the progress that's being made on their behalf.
"For instance, our budget for this year maintained full funding for K-12 public education and proposed an increase for the University system. Here are the figures: The Education Foundation Program was increased by $32 million. From $4,010 per student to $4,169 per student. We also provided $40,000 to each of 131 small municipalities. We first requested this funding be made available in July and it was turned down by the Legislative Budget & Audit committee. However, we took a second proposal to LB&A in October, and $2.9 million in checks have now gone out."
At the AGC meeting, Murkowski discussed his commitment to provide the roads, schools, and other infrastructure that Alaskan communities will need to continue to grow. At the top of the list is the Knik Arm bridge, which will result in major changes in Anchorage by giving it room to grow and provide a means of getting natural resources to market from the west side of Cook Inlet and the Alaska Peninsula. "The Knik Arm Bridge will become a major economic driver for Anchorage in the near future," Murkowski said.
The Governor gave a comprehensive review of his community access and industrial roads program. These include two roads near Nome at Glacier Creek and Rock Creek mine, 14 miles of new road on the Kuskokwim River to provide access to the Donlin Creek mine, and a 100-mile road from Pump Station 2 to Nuiqsut to open up currently inaccessible state oil and gas lease areas.
Murkowski discussed development planned for the Alaska Peninsula, including incremental road construction to connect communities, oil and gas development areas, and, later, to link the Peninsula to Cook Inlet and Anchorage.
Other priority road and bridge projects are the Juneau access project, Gravina access at Ketchikan, a road to the Pogo mine near Delta Junction, and access for the Kensington mine near Juneau. Other projects further out on the horizon are the Stampede road from Healy to Stampede and a road in Northwest Alaska from Pt. Lay to Red Dog.
In both addresses, the Governor described the state's commitment to construction of schools and other public facilities funded by GO bonds that were authorized by the voters in last year's election. We have $463 million in construction projects that are now on the street or soon will be, he said. By selling the bonds in one package this spring when interest rates were very favorable, the administration has already saved more than $15 million in debt servicing costs. And, Murkowski said, the state's AA bond rating has been protected and upgraded because of his administration's ongoing efforts to get control of the budget.
At the AGC address, Murkowski and Commissioner of Labor & Workforce Development Greg O'Claray unveiled a new effort of the Administration to work with Alaska companies to promote Alaska hire. While he will continue to push to fund road to resources and other economic development, one clear objective is to create jobs for Alaskans. He will work with the University and other job training centers to prepare Alaskans for those jobs, but Murkowski said, "the responsibility falls on those of you in the private sector who hire workers to help us achieve the goal of providing good jobs to Alaskans."
A key element of the project
will be to give special recognition to employers that achieve
a 90 percent or higher level of resident hire. At the AGC meeting,
Murkowski and O'Claray recognized two Alaska companies, Cornerstone
Construction of Anchorage, and Alaska Roadbuilders of Kenai,
for achieving an Alaska hire rate greater than 90 percent.
Source of News Release: