It's been reported

Posted: Sunday, April 11, 2004

Well, all I know is what I read in the papers. So wrote Will Rogers 12 years before he was killed in an Alaska plane crash.

By reading Alaska newspapers, this writer learned that Alaska has a governor - 71-year-old Frank Murkowski - who can't be bought, or intimidated. He is doing exactly what he told the voters needed doing before he was overwhelmingly elected governor.

He said Alaska doesn't need broad-based tax increases, especially an income tax. It needs to cut the cost of government. And it needs to build infrastructure to attract resource development to boost the economy to cover the fiscal gap.

Judging by the complaints, he sure is cutting the cost of state government. Small wonder a group of state workers seek his recall.

• He merged the permitting department of Fish and Game into that of the Department of Natural Resources to eliminate duplication.

• He has directed the Alaska State Troopers and the Department of Fish and Game to work out an agreement to jointly use boats and aircraft instead of each agency having separate fleets.

• He has ordered centralization and standardization of state purchases.

• He is moving the headquarters of the state ferry system to Ketchikan to be nearer the state's marine maintenance facilities.

• He is working out new contracts with ferry system unions to assure affordable service with up to four new high-speed ferries by 2007. They will operate with 10 crew members vs. the current 50 to 100. It means the state can discontinue advertising for ferry workers. The high-speed ferries will be day boats. Crew members will live at home between shifts. The new ferries and crews will work 49 weeks a year for more frequent and affordable service for Alaskans. The newest of the old mainliners will continue to operate.

• He moved the home port of the state's new fast ferry from Sitka to Juneau for more efficiency.

• He told leaders of state workers' unions that new contracts will be negotiated in the state capital where the records are, not all over the state.

• He introduced legislation to take state managers out of unions so someone represents Alaska instead of union members negotiating with other unions.

• He eliminated the longevity bonus for a special group of Alaska seniors and created a less costly aid package for needy seniors.

• He was the first governor in more than 10 years to meet with the Senate Finance Committee to encourage devising a long range fiscal plan.

In developing infrastructure:

• He is working with Congressman Don Young and Sens. Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski to secure transportation funds for new ferries and roads to complement them; for a road into the state capital from Skagway; for a road up Bradfield Canal to give Southeast a faster hookup to the continental highway system; for the Knik Arm Crossing; for roads into potential mining areas; for a road from King Cove to the airport at Cold Bay, including a land exchange to allow crossing what is now part of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge; for a $25 million grant to enlarge the state's Ketchikan shipyard; for a bridge to Ketchikan's airport and for dozens of other economy boosting projects.

• He is working with gas producers and pipeline companies to construct a line to take natural gas from Prudhoe Bay to the Lower 48; and to construct a pipeline to deliver natural gas to the port of Valdez for export.

• He is working with Native groups along the Arctic Coast so that this fall the state can lease for oil and gas exploration more than 1 million acres of submerged land off the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska without inhibiting whaling.

• In the past year he reached agreements with two of the largest Alaska Peninsula Native land owners to open up areas for oil and gas exploration

• He flew to Taiwan to interest companies in Alaska resources. The Taiwanese made a return visit to examine Alaska coal and other resources.

• He flew to Victoria to meet with British Columbia officials on extending a railroad to meet with the Alaska Railroad and on constructing the Bradfield Canal Road. A meeting in Juneau followed, attended by representatives of Canadian provinces and Canada's national government to discuss mutual projects.

• He is pushing the Department of Interior to transfer to the state 5 million acres of land reserved in the trans-Alaska pipeline corridor, but not used, so the state can use it for a natural gas line.

• He is pushing the Park Service to complete its regulations to allow more cruise ships into Glacier Bay to boost tourism.

• He seeks federal recognition of the rights-of-way for historic trails (RS 2477 routes).

A major accomplishment was to call that conference of 55 to recommend a solution to the state's fiscal problem. Recommendations from the 55 will be offered to the voters in November, even if the lawmakers have to stay in office in successive special sessions until they act.

This governor has shown he will take action to reach promised goals. Contrary to rumors, he is not seeking to break unions, but he is not intimidated by them, by his critics in the Legislature, or by the carping ultra-conservatives in his own party.

That is what we learned from following Will Rogers' advice.



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