A second Democratic attempt to provide emergency funding for tourism and fish marketing failed on the Senate floor today, even as a $1 million appropriation was tentatively approved to assist the campaign for arctic oil exploration.
Juneau Sen. Kim Elton, former executive director of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, said a bill for another grant to the lobbying organization Arctic Power was too narrowly focused.
"We need a more complete economic stimulus package," Elton said.
But his amendment to provide $12.5 million to the Alaska Travel Industry Association and $12 million to ASMI never got a vote or any deliberation, due to a technicality in legislative rules. Broadening the bill in that way would require a two-thirds vote on a resolution to change the title, which had not been introduced in advance. Sen. Robin Taylor, a Wrangell Republican, said the rule is there to prevent extraneous issues from cluttering up a bill.
The Senate approved the Arctic Power expenditure on a 15-4 vote. Voting no were Elton, fellow Democrats Georgianna Lincoln of Rampart and Johnny Ellis of Anchorage, and Republican Alan Austerman of Kodiak. A vote of reconsideration is scheduled for Friday, although it is rare for a reversal to occur.
The House passed the funding last week on a 33-2 vote, over the objections of Democrats Beth Kerttula of Juneau and Sharon Cissna of Anchorage. By 25-10, the House had rejected Kerttula's amendment to provide $10 million for ASMI, $9.8 million for ATIA and $200,000 for the Alaska Marine Highway System.
Elton argued there was credible evidence, post-Sept. 11, that the tourism industry needs to increase marketing to offset consumer concerns about travel.
"I trust the industry's judgment," he said. "I can tell you when we're in a crisis situation we may not have time to do the (committee) process."
Also under his amendment, ASMI would have received $4 million in marketing efforts for the fiscal year beginning July 1 and then $2 million in each of the four succeeding years.
Ellis, the Senate minority leader, said he expects that the Legislature ultimately will give tourism "a bone" but won't provide any support for salmon marketing.
Meanwhile, Lincoln expressed "great heartache" over the $10 million that the Legislature has given Arctic Power since 1991. Oil exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge threatens the entire culture of the Gwich'in Indians of Arctic Village, who have depended materially and spiritually upon the caribou herd that migrates through the wilderness, she said.
Austerman, the only Republican senator in the bipartisan, bicameral Fiscal Policy Caucus, said he voted against the Arctic Power appropriation because the state faces a $1 billion deficit. Many Republican senators favor a constitutional spending cap, he noted.
But Sen. Jerry Ward, an Anchorage Republican, said opening up ANWR is a long-standing goal of Alaska.
"This is part of a long-term plan," Ward said. "This is necessary and needed."
Sen. Donny Olson, a Nome Democrat, expressed appreciation that $100,000 of the grant money again will go to the city of Kaktovik, the only community within the actual boundaries of ANWR. City officials are working on a documentary video and other efforts to spread their pro-drilling message.
Bill McAllister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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