ANCHORAGE - Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin reached her 100th day in office enjoying high praise from both lawmakers and citizens.
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Palin's supporters said she has delivered on campaign promises of offering a slimmed-downed budget before the milestone was reached Tuesday. She has presented a plan for ethics reform and proposed legislation that could pave the way for construction of a natural gas pipeline. She has been praised by both Democrats and Republicans for her appointments to key state jobs.
Palin last week pronounced herself satisfied with the progress made but said it has not been easy.
"It's been exhilarating," she said. "But there are mornings when I come in and say, 'OK, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about this or that, let's work on a finding a solution to it."'
Many credit her open style and approachability for scoring points with the public. She has danced with Alaskans at inaugural balls, read to schoolchildren and visited communities struck by disasters.
"She has an Alaska 'it' factor that has allowed the public to trust her," said Sen. Con Bunde, R-Anchorage. "She's believable and accessible. And even if you disagree with her, she's not going to be disagreeable. I hope it lasts though her whole term."
Lawmakers said her open-door policy is a significant change.
"The lack of communication was a constant complaint of mine with the previous government," said House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez. "This governor's had some growing pains, but not any more than other new administrations. I'm very pleased with the ongoing, open dialogue we've had so far."
House Minority Leader Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, said Palin has kept Democrats in the loop as much as Republicans.
"These are still early days, but there is a lot of optimism," Kerttula said.
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Critics say her popularity is based on the public's desire to see new energy in the governor's seat. That desire will fade without substantive results on critical state problems, said Andrew Halcro, who ran against Palin last year as an independent.
"We all want to give her the benefit of the doubt," Halcro said. "But the job of governor is not about a personality as much as it is about solving the state's structural problems."
The former lawmaker said Palin's claim of budget cutting has been nothing more than smoke and mirrors and numbers switching.
Halcro said he had serious concerns about the ability of Palin's natural gas pipeline bill to attract a pipeline builder with the financial backing to complete construction. The bill's proposed inducements could attract entities that are unable to pay for the pipeline unless the state foots most of the bill, he said.
Some lawmakers said Palin hit her first serious stumbling block this month. The governor criticized the Senate majority coalition for "playing politics as usual" with her proposed amendments to ethics reform bills. Palin campaigned on ethics reform and pushed for change.
Palin's legislative advisers turned to Senate Minority Leader Gene Therriault, R-North Pole, to introduce amendments covering executive branch ethics reform. The Senate rejected the amendments, an act Palin called "outrageous."
Palin's natural gas pipeline bill, the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, or AGIA, may draw more criticism. Lawmakers have questioned several of the bill's incentives, including a proposed $500 million to whomever has the best pipeline plan, a gift the entity must match.
The natural gas pipeline debate may reveal how Palin's team intends to develop the state's relations with its energy producers.
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