SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska



Hard Choices Await 2006 Legislature
By John Harris


December 01, 2005

As the New Year approaches, the Legislature once again is preparing to converge on Juneau to address the needs of our state. A major task that the Legislature is facing this upcoming session will be adopting a budget that we will be able to sustain in the future, which still addresses the needs of Alaskans today.

Much like the citizens of Alaska when they work on their household budget, legislators need to take a look at the money they have, and what their expenses are. The Legislature will have to either depend on our good fortune in continued high oil prices or we must make some tough choices on which programs will require increases, which will have to exist at current funding levels or which will need to be cut.

The House majority is committed to a number of issues. We have and will continue to make education a top priority. We need to prepare Alaska's children for a competitive future -- and that means all Alaska's children.

Boarding schools, home schools, charter school, distance learning and vocational training all deserve attention. We understand that the best thing we can do for our state, our children and our future is provide the best education possible for all our students.

Protecting Alaskans is also an ongoing focus for the House majority. Health care, public safety and programs to better the lives of our citizens are essential. And we also have to find mechanisms to help Alaskans help themselves. More money is not always the answer in helping Alaskans become more self-sufficient and it is our goal to fund programs that will do just that.

The House majority understands that while we may have the benefit of a surplus, local communities across the state are struggling with budget issues, and taxpayers in incorporated areas are bearing an unfair share of the financial burden. This session we want to look at ways that we might be able to provide assistance to local communities across the state through municipal revenue sharing or other means.

Alaska is a state rich in resources --fisheries, mining, timber and oil continue to bring revenue to our state -- and it is essential that we continue to protect this legacy.

We need to maximize our use of land and resources to ensure that they are sustainable for generations to come. Responsible resource development is something the House majority strongly believes in.

I know you hear about it often, but building a natural gas pipeline in Alaska remains a priority and a focus for the House majority. We want a pipeline that will benefit all Alaskans and rest assured that the contract that comes before the Legislature will only be approved by the Legislature if it is the best deal and in the best interest of the state of Alaska.

One thing that all of these issues have in common is jobs. A natural gas pipeline would bring numerous new jobs to Alaska and education is essential to ensure that we have the people to fill the jobs in our state, families are strengthened by working parents and communities thrive when industry takes hold in their region.

The House majority is committed to creating and maintaining jobs for the citizens of this state. We know that laws and regulations in Alaska determine whether it's a good place to do business, and we keep this in mind every day.

As we look to the new session, the House majority intends to save a large portion of the projected $1 billion in surplus funds. The best way to do this is to control our spending and examine the use of every dollar in the state budget. Prudent and thoughtful spending makes the difference between a continued surplus or using reserves to make ends meet.

In this upcoming legislative session, the House majority will continue to fight for fiscal restraint. It is our goal to address the needs across Alaska, while being responsible with the state budget.

Note: Representative John Harris is a member of the Alaska Legislature representing House District 12, Valdez. Harris serves as House Speaker.



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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska